Violence at KC’s Hogan Prep sends students back online. But did that cause the problem? – Kansas City star | Team Cansler


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After the social isolation of the pandemic shutdown, kids who returned to classes had

After the social isolation of the pandemic shutdown, kids who returned to classes had “more guns, more fights, a lot more mental health cases to deal with.”


Kansas City’s Hogan Preparatory Academy Charter High School, which has been temporarily closed for safety reasons, needs to get its students safely back into classrooms — and soon.

The school closed a week ago due to “several recent incidents affecting the safety of students and staff,” according to a letter of concern issued by the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.

The longer children are out of school, the further they are likely to fall behind academically and the harder it will be to readjust to a classroom environment after two years of distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As students returned to classrooms this fall, schools expected many would need intensive remedial action to overcome the learning loss experienced during the shutdown.

COVID-19 is still with us, albeit far less threatening. But now, according to Hogan, it’s uncontrollable students that are making schools unsafe — that and a lack of staff to control or prevent disruption.

Some parents and others who were part of the ‘reopening our schools’ chorus received a lot of opposition during the pandemic because the spread of the virus had not yet subsided. However, they warned that long-term school closures would place emotional and psychological strain on children. You were right.

The return to schools has been accompanied by an increase in student fighting, gun possession and other disruptions. Helping students relearn how to interact in school and with staff is key. And that’s a big part of the problem, because the country is in the midst of a national school staffing shortage. Teachers, counselors and administrators have left the profession in droves over the past two years.

A recent study by professors at Kansas State University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign counted at least 36,500 open teaching positions nationwide. The study also estimates that at least 163,500 positions are held by teachers who are not fully certified or certified in the subject area they teach.

The 450 Hogan Prep students in grades 9-12 can now attend classes remotely via computer after the new closure. This is not good. As we’ve learned during the pandemic, even if every student has an electronic device, not all students have consistent internet access. Almost all of Hogan’s students come from economically disadvantaged households.

If social isolation during the pandemic is behind the emotional damage and bad behavior at school, sending children back into isolation certainly won’t solve the problem. At best, it’s a temporary reset.

“Is the solution to close the school? No, because that’s what got us where we are now,” said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

“No one needed a crystal ball to know that if we opened the doors again and let kids back into schools, we would have a problem,” Canady said. The problems in urban, rural and suburban schools are “more guns, more fighting, a lot more mental illness to deal with,” he said.

“High rates” of suspension after school violence

It’s not just happening in Kansas City, either. Several St. Louis schools have recently been temporarily closed due to ongoing fighting and threats of violence. And teachers and school administrators across the country say they are seeing an increase in everything from minor misconduct to hallway fights, the Washington Post reported last month.

School fights are not uncommon. What happened at Hogan led to what the letter described as a “high rate” of suspensions. Neither the school nor the commission are working on it. But it was clearly scary enough that many school workers “are considering terminating or not renewing employment contracts because they are concerned for their safety,” the commission’s letter said. Hogan’s middle school was assigned extra security, and principals said they “changed procedures during the school day to emphasize security.” These details are kept secret for security reasons.

“I find it disappointing that this is happening, but I think based on what I’ve heard, the decision to close was what needed to happen to keep students safe,” Douglas Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association told us.

And that underscores the dilemma facing Hogan and similar schools: students aren’t safe at school, but they might not be learning remotely.

We know that online education is not the best facility for teaching students, especially those with learning disabilities. Recent national academic outcomes reports from the pandemic years showed that many children, including children in Missouri and Kansas, have fallen significantly behind academically in virtual schooling.

So if you close the doors and expect kids to show up in front of a computer screen instead of a traditional classroom, students are sure to be thrown back even further.

Hogan has been ordered by the commission to come up with a safety plan before it can reopen after the Thanksgiving holiday. The commission received the plan on Saturday, but unless the commission is certain the students can safely return, Hogan could close indefinitely.

Unfortunately, this could further disrupt the education of children whose lives have already been disrupted by pandemic isolation and threats of violence at school. Our students deserve better. Hogan must find a workable solution quickly. Failure would leave hundreds of Kansas City students behind.

Failure is not an option.

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