Woodson News

From Kansas Association of School Boards

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday announced that Kansas schools will be closed for the duration of the school year because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But Kelly and Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson emphasized that learning will continue via instruction to students online, in small groups or both.

An expert task force is set to unveil recommendations Wednesday on delivering education to students while school buildings remain closed.

Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) President Shannon Kimball, of the Lawrence USD 497 school board, was part of the news conference and said later, “We are all going to have to work through this time together. I’m heartened that KASB will be a resource for all of us to continue to support us in figuring out to how to navigate this situation.”

Kimball said school leaders will work on finding the best way to continue teaching students and making sure students in poverty or who don’t have computer access are supported.

The Continuous Learning Task Force will provide guidelines for continuous learning for students as they stay home. Local school districts will decide how to proceed from there.

Closing schools also raises numerous challenges in getting meals to students and childcare for working parents. Many schools that have already closed down, launched meal programs practically overnight, providing grab-and-go lunches and breakfasts.

In a joint statement from KASB, KSDE, KNEA, USA-Kansas and KSSA, said, “We realize this is a difficult time, but Kansans always have persevered – and we will continue to do so. We will work together to get through this, and we will overcome this challenge and emerge stronger.”

The statement also said: “Kansas education is among the finest in the country. Closing classrooms and moving to a Continuous Learning plan can’t begin to replicate our state’s education structure as we know it, but it can help ensure strategies that will provide a bridge back to the world-class learning our students benefit from today.

“Essential staff members – as determined by local district officials – may be needed through Friday, March 20, to assess and prepare for facility maintenance. While schools are closed, administrative offices and support facilities may remain open as needed.

“Once buildings are thoroughly sanitized, they will be able to reopen for small groups of school personnel to implement a plan for Continuous Learning.”

Kelly said the steps were taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus. In addition to the issue of continuous learning, Watson said he wants to make sure all seniors on track to graduate, do graduate this semester.

Earlier Tuesday, Kelly signed an executive order prohibiting internet and utility companies from disconnecting service to Kansans for non-payment.

Also on Tuesday, the Legislature approved legislation allowing the State Board of Education to waive laws to shorten the school year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Kelly said she expects school employees to continue to get paid. She also ordered state employees of executive agencies to stay home for two weeks on administrative leave.