Districts across Kansas make decisions on start-of-school dates

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 3:20 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - From delaying start dates to what happens with schools if any students get sick with COVID-19, decision time arrives for school districts across Kansas. Many districts Monday began solidifying plans for the upcoming school year. This included setting dates for the first days of school. Most said the year ahead will be ever-changing due to uncertainties brought on by the pandemic.

The state’s biggest district, Wichita Public Schools, made its decision last week to hold off on starting the 2020-21 school year until after Labor Day. Topeka and Kansas City, Kan. schools are also starting late. More districts in the Wichita area followed suit. Last week, the Haysville and Maize school districts announced intentions to recommend a post-Labor Day start date to its respective school boards.

Monday night, Andover Derby, Maize, Valley Center, Goddard, Rose Hill, Arkansas City, Winfield, and Wellington were among the school boards who voted to join Wichita in following Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal to start after Labor Day. Andover, Derby, Maize, Wellington, Rose Hill and Goddard will start the 2020-2021 school year Sept. 8. Valley Center and Ark City are among those starting Sept. 9. Winfield Monday night announced its plan to have orientation for sixth and ninth-grade students on Sept. 8 with everyone back Sept. 9.

El Dorado Monday night joined the list of Kansas schools that will start next month. El Dorado’s school board approved an Aug. 26 start date. Dodge City schools will start Aug. 25. With that announcement, the district said masks and temperature checks will be among the safety requirements in every school building. Holding off until September, but heading back before Labo Day is the Halstead-Bentley district, starting Sept. 3. The Salina school district is also among those starting before Labor Day.

Last week, Salina’s school board approved a plan to start Aug. 31 with options for in-person and remote learning.

Ahead of Monday’s school board meeting, The El Dorado school district said it had the feedback it needed from the community to move forward.

“Presenting the board with a reopening plan, it got some input from parents in the community via some surveys last week, and we had a team who worked on this over the last few weeks to kind of get this draft put together,” said El Dorado Public Schools Director of Information Services Kimberly Koop.

Winfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nathan Reed said his school district was also appreciative of public input ahead of the board’s big decisions for the upcoming school year.

Ark City Public Schools Public Relations Director Alisha Call pointed out that for any district in Kansas, ‘anything could change throughout the school year based on the COVID-19 situation in a community and recommendations from state and local health or education officials.

“This pandemic life, if you will, is ever-evolving and changing. So we very much have to make decisions that are best based on the information we have that day,” said El Dorado Public Schools Director of Information Services Kimberly Koop.

When it comes to options for how students return, Eyewitness News Monday heard feedback from parents at enrollment in Derby. Those parents said they want their kids to return to in-person classes this fall.

“I personally, as a parent, care about COVID, but I’m not paralyzed by fear, so I would hope to see kids getting back to school as soon as possible,” Derby parent Emily Farkas said.

Parent Dan Linares spoke on the importance of social interaction for kids and being involved with activities. Following state-level guidelines, safety measures in the Derby school district include the temperature checks and mask requirements in school buildings.

You can find a list of school safety plans, including projected start dates at schools across Kansas here.

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