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Reimagining Education

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Reopening plans highlight limitations of district boundaries

District leaders from through the St. Louis region have been meeting for the past month to try to figure out the best way to reopen schools in the fall.

As a result, many people following the issue expected a similar plan to be announced this week by every district throughout the region.

It made sense that they would create some form of regional cohesion that would ensure that every student has similar opportunities and supports.

What was announced yesterday was anything but uniform.

If you live in Normandy then your kids are scheduled to return to school buildings on Sept. 4 despite the recent rise in Coronavirus cases in the region (although you can still choose to get an education virtually through the MOCAP program, even if the school district is not planning on telling you this).

If you live in the Ritenour school district, then your kids will be starting school completely virtually this fall, regardless of parent needs to return to work or concerns over some students’ lack of access to digital devices and connectivity to succeed in a virtual learning environment.

If you live in any of the other school districts in the St. Louis region then you likely have some form of choice between sending your kids to school for a couple of days a week, for every day of the week, or taking classes completely virtually, but the details of the scheduling (and how districts will clean schools, manage busing, and support staff) vary widely from district to district.

The reality is there is no one right answer about the best way to start a school year during a pandemic. Every option has its own risks and rewards and it seems like districts realized this and decided to do what they thought was right for their own district.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, but shouldn’t we take it a step further and give parents and students the final decision about what is best for their health, safety, and educational success?

If a parent in the Ritenour district, just a couple of minutes away from Normandy, feels it is safe to send their kids back to school and needs to do so to be able to go back to work then shouldn’t they have the same right to do that as a parent living just a couple of miles down the road?

Parents have long recognized the differences between school districts in the region and fought to expand access to better school districts, but the current crisis really highlights how limiting Missouri’s lack of an open enrollment option can be.

For some students where they live, and which school’s pandemic guidelines they are forced to follow, could potentially mean the difference between life and death for them or a loved one.

Isn’t it time that we gave families control over their future?

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