KC schools may start online; St. Louis youth sports on hold

Associated Press
FILE - In this March 9, 2020 file photo, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page speaks during a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management in Baldwin, Mo. Leaders on both sides of Missouri are taking actions that they say are necessary to protect children from the coronavirus. Kansas City's school superintendent wants to start the fall semester with online classes. Page ordered a temporary halt to youth sports games and scrimmages that began this week, a move that has drawn criticism from some youth sports coaches, parents and facility operators.

KIRKWOOD — The superintendent of one of Missouri's largest school districts wants to start the school year with only online classes while St. Louis-area leaders are defending their decision to shut down youth sports in an effort to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus as cases rise among young people. 

Kansas City Kansas Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell told the School Board Wednesday night that he also wants to wait until Sept. 8 to begin the school year, which was supposed to start Aug. 24. The board will make the final decision.

"What we don't want to do is be an organization that commits any unnecessary and undue harm for our students, teachers or staff," Bedell said, according to the Kansas City Star. "If we don't have a healthy workforce there is no way we can educate our students."

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have risen sharply this month throughout the state, with Missouri reaching another milestone Thursday confirming 1,637 new cases. That set a single-day record, topping the 1,301 new cases reported Wednesday. The uptick on Thursday sets the latest single-day record for new confirmed cases which have been climbing for three straight days.

The state health department also reported 20 new deaths, bringing the total to 1,179 since the pandemic began.

Missouri reopened its economy in mid-June. Since then, the state has reported 21,300 confirmed cases and 297 additional deaths from the coronavirus.

In St. Louis County, some parents, youth sports coaches and leaders of facilities that host youth sports have spoken out against the decision to halt tournaments, games and scrimmages. The moratorium imposed by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, began Monday. Teams can still practice, but only in groups of 10 or fewer and with no spectators.

Several speakers at a virtual protest Monday demanded that the county provide data that justifies the shutdown.

In a joint statement Thursday, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force defended the decision, citing the "widespread transmission of the virus in the community, particularly in the younger population."

The statement said that while the risk of transmitting the virus during games "is most likely low," the likelihood of spread rises due to activities surrounding games such as gatherings of spectators and carpooling.

"We all agree that participation in sports benefits young people physically, mentally and emotionally," the statement said. "Unfortunately, because of the significant spread of the virus within the community, these actions, as well as others, are needed until our communities are safe again."