Shawnee Mission Schools set to proceed with fall sports and performing arts activities

Board of Education votes 5-2 to allow Shawnee Mission Schools to resume activities and athletics amidst the pandemic.

After a special board meeting on Sept. 9 at 4 p.m the Shawnee Mission Board of Education concluded that Shawnee Mission schools are free to continue with fall sports and activities. 

During the meeting, Dr. Mike Fulton read from a written update provided by Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Director Dr. Sanmi Areola, stating that Dr. Areola is “okay with SMSD proceeding with sports and extracurricular activities.” 

Back in August, the district had originally decided to halt all sports and activities due to rising rates of positive cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County. Why the district ultimately changed their decision, was not disclosed

The decision, which the district’s Board of Education voted 5-2 on, has since been implemented and took effect immediately.

Richard Kramer, the Athletics and Activities Director assured that proper precautions will be taken to ensure students’ and staff safety during activities. They plan to follow specific guidelines for each activity and sport, procedures issued by the Kansas State High School Athletics Association.

“It’s important to know that we are looking out for the safety of every student, athlete, activity, coach, and family,” Kramer said. 

Prior to practice, student athletes participating in the sports will be required to answer screening questions, and will be monitored for symptoms as well as being responsible for bringing their own masks to help prevent the spread of germs during activities. 

“Drinking fountains and common water stations will be used with supervision,” Kramer said, “meaning we have these water [fountains], we’re just not gonna let everybody go to them. There will be a supervisor there, the students will be supervised filling up their water bottles, and [then] going back to the activity.” 

The district will also be restricting non-participant attendance, to help enforce social distancing. Parents can drop off and pick up their students, any non-participants are required to stay in vehicles. It is highly recommended that no spectators, siblings or others are present on site, including parking lots. Carpooling is not recommended.

Other Performing Arts activities are also required to follow specific regulations that apply to extra curricular activities and performances to minimize risks. Shawnee Mission School District’s Performing Arts Curriculum Coordinator, Bill Thomas discussed these regulations during the meeting. 

“Orchestras and theatre programs may rehearse in unaltered schedules,” he said. “In the choir and band areas; a couple of those areas that are considered high-risk, they have special strategies [stating] that they can only rehearse for 30 minutes at a time – and it’s been updated now that they can take a 10 minute break.” 

HEPA Air Scrubbers have been purchased by the district and installed in choir and band rooms. Puppy pads have also been purchased and distributed to band rooms. Brass players will use the puppy pads to clear their water keys, and puppy pads will be disposed of at the end of class.

Thomas said that the district’s staff is working hard to keep schools safe.

“I would tell you that our staff has been amazing and [is] working very diligently to make sure that we can provide music education and Performing Arts for our students,” Thomas said.