School year to begin in distance learning format for Blue Valley middle and high schools

Macy Kennedy, Staff writer

Superintendent Tonya Merrigan announced Friday that district high schools and middle schools would begin the school year in a distance learning format. Elementary will return in-person in a hybrid format.

The decision came after the board rescinded their vote to follow the Johnson County Health Department’s criteria on Aug. 18, and instructed Merrigan to create a Gating Criteria Committee to determine where the district fell on the Kansas Department of Education guidelines.

In her email to district families announcing the decision, Merrigan acknowledged that “these are not easy decisions as we know that our community has varied opinions and feelings about a return to school.” 

The committee — consisting of representatives of teachers, parents, local health officials and district officials — decided to weigh each of the criteria equally, ultimately determining that the district would begin the school year in the orange category.

From Kansas’ Navigating Change 2020 criteria, K-5 students will be allowed to return in person in the hybrid format with half of the alphabet attending on specific days of the week. 

Middle and high school students will be learning remotely until at least Oct. 2, when reevaluation will happen and if at all possible, students will return to school. 

All activities and athletics are suspended beginning Saturday, Aug. 22, but the committee will re-evaluate the gating criteria in two weeks. According to Merrigan’s email, KSHSAA is aware of the changes being made in Johnson County schools and is working with districts to come up with an alternative season option if fall sports are unable to resume.

Merrigan said this fall’s distance learning will look vastly different from last spring’s continuing education. There will be more requirements for students, as well as for teachers. 

Orientation will be held virtually for sixth and ninth graders, with more information coming from individual schools’ principals.

School is scheduled to begin on Sept. 9. The distance learning format will stay in place until at least Oct. 2. This will not affect students enrolled in the VirtualEd program.

More information can be found on the district’s Return to Learn page: https://www.bluevalleyk12.org/domain/5442.