Kansas BOE rejects governor’s order to delay reopening schools

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 11:08 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas Board of Education did not approve Gov. Laura Kelly’s order to delay the opening of schools until after Labor Day.

In a split decision on Tuesday, board members voted 5-5 on the executive order, but a simple majority was needed to affirm the order.

Gov. Laura Kelly, who said she was awaiting the board’s vote to sign what would have been E.O. 20-58, released the following statement.

“The cases of COVID-19 in Kansas are at an all-time high and continue to rise. Our decisions must be informed by public health experts, not politics. This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk,” said the governor. “I will continue to work with our school districts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children and ask every school district to delay the start of school.”

Gov. Kelly said the delay would give school districts more time to get hygiene guidelines in place buy necessary supplies and get the spread of coronavirus further under control.

Republican state lawmakers pushed the board to reject the executive order and let individual school districts make their own decisions.

Members who opposed the governor’s order said they had low numbers of COVID-19 in their districts and called the order a blanket approach and unfair to school districts that believed they could safely open in August.

Members who supported the order said it may not be ideal but pointed to the science that COVID-19 is not going away and that it can be spread through children.

All members said they had received communication from parents and teachers calling on students to be back in the classroom due to the longer than normal summer break caused by the shutdown of schools in March. The main issue at hand was now is how to do it safely.

Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment spoke at the meeting. He said delaying the start of school until after day would hopefully, give COVID-19 numbers a chance to go down, and districts time to acquire the necessary personal protective equipment.

The decision on when to reopen schools now goes back to local school districts. As of Wednesday afternoon, Topeka and Kansas City, Kan. schools made the decision to move forward with delaying the start until after Labor Day. Both districts are also starting the year remotely.

While Wichita Public Schools hasn’t yet made its start-date decision, Wichita Collegiate School, a private school in the city, said it plans for students to return to its campus on Aug. 19.

We intend to be open for school in person on August 19th. Following recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control,...

Posted by Wichita Collegiate School on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

“Following recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, the National Association of Independent Schools, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, we know that school must including social distancing, daily health checks, frequent hand and room cleaning measures,” school leaders said in a Wednesday-afternoon Facebook post.

The school said additional safety measures are in place, which, for now, includes no visitors allowed on campus without health screenings and face masks. You can find Wichita Collegiate’s safety guidelines for reopening on its website.

We expect to learn more about start dates for schools across Kansas as school boards prepare to meet over the next couple of weeks.

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