Kirkwood middle schools to resume in-person instruction in November

KIRKWOOD — The Kirkwood School Board approved a plan Monday to bring middle school students back to in-class learning, but students will stay only until 12:30. They will then go home and have virtual classes for the rest of the day.

In an email sent to middle school parents Tuesday, the district said the two middle schools “do not have adequate staff to relieve teachers to go to lunch, and the cafeteria is not an option due to the need to use the space for instruction.”

A free sack lunch will be provided to every student, district officials said.

Lunchtime dismissal will be staggered to reduce large groups of students congregating. Students are asked to head home beginning at 12:30 p.m. Bus service is provided for those who live far enough from campus to ride the bus.

Fridays will be all-virtual learning and students will follow their hourly schedules. Parents have the option to keep their children at home for full-time online learning, but the district said more than 80% of middle schoolers will return to school in person.

In asking for the school board’s approval to reopen middle school, district superintendent David Ulrich cited a September 22 statement from St. Louis County Executive Sam Page that said COVID-19 cases among middle school-aged students in the county are declining and are “relatively low in comparison to other age groups.” Page recommended that school districts begin plans for middle school in-person learning.

At the Monday board meeting, the district outlined its plans to reduce coronavirus spread. Officials have installed high-density ventilation filters in all buildings and will work to increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible throughout the school day. Windows will be open as weather permits.

The district said they are making sure that adequate school supplies are available to minimize sharing, with cleaning and disinfecting between use. When possible, students will sanitize their hands prior to using shared objects.

Physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, are being installed in areas where it is difficult for people to remain at least six feet apart. The district purchased portable safety barriers for each student as well as counter-top barriers for offices and cafeterias.

High-touch areas on buses will be wiped down between routes, and buses will be disinfected nightly and between routes. Backpack sprayers will be used to disinfect large areas.

Sixth graders will return to Nipher and North Kirkwood middle Schools on November 6, while seventh and eighth graders will return on November 9.

Administrators are beginning work on a reopening plan for the high school.

Elementary school students are set to return to in-person instruction on Oct. 21.

“I want to make sure our high school parents know we haven’t forgotten about you,” Ulrich said. “Dr. (Sam) Page’s announcement tells us the window is open for our high school kids (to return) as well.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that students will not return for in-person classes after leaving for lunch.

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