Blue Valley announces distance learning for high school after Thanksgiving Break

Superintendent Tonya Merrigan announced in an email the return of distance learning for all high school students, beginning Nov. 30. All volunteer activities, including athletics and clubs, are still scheduled to begin Nov 16.    

Tessa Regan

Friday afternoon, Superintendent Tonya Merrigan sent out an email this afternoon announcing the return of distance learning for high school and middle schoolers after Thanksgiving Break.

Following the Board of Educations’ adoption of the Kansas State Department of Education Navigation Criteria, and using the data from the Kansas State Department of Health and Environment, the district is in the Orange level.  Being in the orange level means middle and high schools will partake in remote learning.

Elementary students will remain in full-time, in-person learning, while middle school and high school will switch to distance learning from Nov. 30 through Dec. 22.

Athletics, Merrigan said, will begin Nov 16, with enhanced mitigation strategies in place. Although all activities are scheduled to take place, Merrigan warns that this is subject to change at any time, if the situation worsens. 

Keep in mind that even with these contingency plans in place, we will continue to review appropriate measures and adjust if necessary, to ensure the health, safety and well-being of students, coaches and sponsors,” Merrigan said. 

Drive-up meal services will still be available for distance learning and VirtualED students on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The decision to return to distance learning, Merrigan said, comes after seeing a high increase of COVID-19 cases in the community.

“I know how hard [the staff] and our students have worked hard this year to implement mitigation strategies and modifications to the school day yet the impact of the community transmission is clearly felt,” Merrigan said. 

 One issue which has strongly affected the district’s ability to continue in-person learning is the lack of substitutes, leading to an increased number of unfilled substitute positions, with 30 to 40 positions unfilled each day for the past two weeks.  

“Availability of substitutes has been steadily dropping since the first week of school,” Merrigan said. “Teachers are giving up plan periods to assist building and district-level administrators to cover unfilled positions.”

The return to distance learning, Merrigan said, will allow for the available substitutes to fill the empty spots in the elementary schools.

Merrigan concludes her email asking for everyone to come together, encouraging staff support their fellow Blue Valley colleagues, to be there for all students and continue to follow local health official guidance.

“I know just how hard [teachers] are working to meet the needs of [their] students in person, remotely and through VirtualED,” Merrigan said. “Thank you for everything you are doing, it is enough. We’ve got this.”