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KCPS NEWS

November 4, 2021

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A Note from KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell

Dear KCPS families, 

 

As we approach the busy holiday season, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to being part of KCPS during these unprecedented times and share some information regarding our schedule for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. 

 

Last night at the Board of Directors workshop, the Board and administration approved two important calendar updates. There will be no school on Monday, Nov. 22 or Tuesday, Nov. 23 to give KCPS students and staff a full week off for fall break. I hope this change will give everyone more time during a season where many of us look forward to reconnecting and recharging. This calendar adjustment will not change the last day of school. Our last day of school remains May 27, 2022. 

 

This change was made after surveying our staff and listening to them during our staff engagement sessions. As we’ve navigated quarantines, substitute teacher shortages, transportation challenges and more, their commitment hasn't wavered, and neither has yours. As partners in education, you have worked with us, made sacrifices and shown patience and grace throughout these challenges. We know it hasn't been easy. We hope a longer fall break can help you recharge, too.

 

That said, we know that you were counting on us being in school those two days. KCPS is partnering with Camp Fire, Boys & Girls Club, The YMCA, the Upper Room and Turn the Page to provide free child care for working parents from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 22 and 23. These are the same partners we worked with last year during virtual learning. We will be send out more information about how to sign up for child care very soon.

 

We want our school district calendar to work for everyone. That means listening to staff and student feedback and making bold adjustments when necessary. As such, the KCPS Board of Directors also voted to recognize Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves. This year, because Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, 12-month employees will receive Monday, June 20, 2022, as a paid holiday. We see this as an extension of our work around educational equity. 

 

Thank you for being part of the KCPS family. 
 

Yours in education, 
Dr. Mark Bedell, Superintendent

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Clockwise, from top left: Northeast High School students Sara Hidalgo, Michael Stivers, Mirzeta Klinac and Marcelles Heart participated in a class project to build a Día de los Muertos altar.

Northeast High School Art Students Build Altar for Community Día de los Muertos Celebration

Northeast High School students in Katharine Bruns’ art class created the centerpiece for the neighborhood Día de los Muertos festival. The altar is now on display in the school library.

Junior Sara Hidalgo crafted many of the paper cempazúchitl, or Mexican marigolds. This is her first time celebrating Día de los Muertos, a holiday to honor deceased loved ones. “My mom did when she lived in Mexico. She talked about doing (an altar) for her mom," she said.

Senior Michael Stivers helped build the altar itself. He said initially the art class wanted to construct a tree but eventually settled on a more traditional design. “We made it a three-step base like the three steps to heaven," he said.

At Día de los Muertos festivals, it’s common to see women and girls dressed as La Catrina, a famous skeleton. So senior Mirzeta Klinac volunteered to do face paint. “I am a makeup artist myself, so I thought this would be good practice," she said.

Senior Marcelles Heart played guitar during Wednesday’s Día de los Muertos celebration at Northeast High School. He says he’s been trying to get more involved since transferring from a much smaller school last year. “I’m doing much better than I did in my old school," he said. "Grades are better, better environment, not being bullied.”

For Bruns, the art teacher, the best part has been watching a diverse group of students making connections as they shared their cultures and customs.

"Some of my Vietnamese students told me that they do the same thing," she said. "They clean graves and honor the lives that came before us."

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Building Equitable Educational Experiences

KCPS has made great strides in the last 15 years thanks to families fighting for the best education possible for their students. In Phase 2 of the Blueprint 2030 strategic planning process, KCPS answers the question, "Where do we want to be?"

 

If you were unable to participate in a Blueprint 2030 community conversation in October, there's still time to take the priority survey. This survey will help us prioritize what we want in our schools and community as we move forward. From here, we’ll keep you updated on more dates and details around future opportunities for feedback this winter and into the spring.

 

Together, we’ll make a commitment to our students to provide opportunities that will help them thrive socially, emotionally and academically. 

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DAC Meeting Nov. 10: Mentoring, Blueprint 2030

KCPS is gearing up for the next DAC meeting of the year from 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, and everyone is invited to attend. The DAC addresses school issues and concerns, allows you to share ideas and solve problems cooperatively and helps advise the district’s Board of Directors. Our schools can’t do it alone; we need the involvement and support of parents and guardians to succeed.

 

The meeting will be in person at the Board of Education and virtual via Zoom with Spanish interpretation available online. At Wednesday’s meeting, you will hear exciting information about mentoring programs and opportunities available to KCPS students, as well as updates on Blueprint 2030, our strategic planning process.

 

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 6 p.m.

In person at the Board of Education, 2901 Troost Ave. (food will be provided)

Or join us virtually via Zoom (Spanish interpretation will be available)

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LISTEN: 'I Was a Homeless Kid Growing Up'

In an interview with Resolve Magazine, KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell said students are always surprised to learn he's lived their experience.

 

"I know the impact unstable housing can have on a kid and the frustration they show up with and how it’s an impediment to kids being able to reach their full academic potential," Bedell said. "So, we feel we have a responsibility to try to control for that variable to the best of our ability. But it makes this job so much harder."

 

Learn more about what KCPS is doing to support the work of housing advocates in Kansas City in the latest issue of Resolve Magazine.

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CDC Approves COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 5-11

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11. As we have throughout the pandemic, KCPS is working with Children’s Mercy Hospital and the the Kansas City Health Department to get our families the most accurate COVID-19 information.

 

CDC guidance states vaccination is currently the leading public health strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vaccine for children 5 and older. KCPS strongly recommends eligible students be vaccinated.

 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine uses mRNA technology. According to the CDC:

 

The mRNA vaccines do not contain any live virus. Instead, they work by teaching our cells to make a harmless piece of a “spike protein,” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After making the protein piece, cells display it on their surface. Our immune system then recognizes that it does not belong there and responds to get rid of it. When an immune response begins, antibodies are produced, creating the same response that happens in a natural infection.

 

Your child cannot catch COVID-19 from a vaccine. Sore muscles, redness and fever after a shot are signs the vaccine is working, according to Children’s Mercy Hospital.

 

Children's Mercy Hospital is currently scheduling vaccine appointments, as are some local pharmacies. Check CVSWalgreensHyVee and Price Chopper for availability. It will take time for pharmacies and health departments to receive the lower-dose pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. It’s likely demand for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines will be high for several weeks. KCPS will let you know about pediatric vaccine opportunities through our community health partners.

 

In the meantime, KCPS will continue to practice COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Free testing is available in all of our schools through Children’s Mercy Hospital or Ginkgo Bioworks. Weekly testing provides peace of mind for teachers and parents. Please contact your child’s school to sign up.

 

Missouri determines which vaccines students need to attend school. This is a state decision, not a local one. School immunization information is available on the Department of Health and Senior Services website. Missouri does not require COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 students.

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