Individual KS districts to decide how school will look when fall semester begins

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 4:40 PM CDT
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The Kansas State Board of Education Wednesday held a virtual meeting to discuss how Fall 2020 could look for schools across the state.

The biggest takeaway from that meeting is that the board is going to let each individual district decide what the fall semester will look like for them. The board will be recommending guidelines as it has hundreds of educators and health officials working together.

Parents who spoke with Eyewitness News Wednesday say they do want their children's schools to reopen, but when it comes to planning for the next school year, they just want the schools to try and keep their children safe.

"The logistics of the whole thing are really gonna be difficult, but I think USD 259 will handle it appropriately," says Norma Perkins, grandmother of a child in the Wichita school district, the largest district in Kansas.

The Kansas State Board of Education's members say reopening and doing so safely is their ultimate goal.

"So, we're going to open school and we're going to keep kids and families safe," Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson says. "And I've said this over and over, that's not a binary decision. We can do both."

The board of education says each school district in Kansas will need to work closely their county health officials to ensure reopening plans are instituted as safely as possible.

"And it's going to have to be very cooperative because every county is going to have to be very cooperative because every county is going to look totally different," Kansas Deputy Commissioner of Education Brad Neuenswander says. "So that's what I think you'll see in the guidelines, there will be a lot of options that you'll have to consider."

Parents who spoke with Eyewitness News Wednesday say they would like to see most of the social distancing guidelines put into place at their children's schools.

"Social distancing is very important, just because, well, with the little kids, they're still learning really, the good hand washing," says Erin Rogers, a parent of K-12 students in the Wichita school district. "There needs to be a room where they could separate these children, you know, that aren't feeling good until they can get a hold of the parents, especially if their temperature spikes or whatever. It's just kind of good common sense, but I know when you're dealing with a classroom of 25 kids, that's hard. I personally think they need to reduce the size of the classrooms."

The state board of education will make more decisions on guidelines in late July, ahead of the start to the 2020-2021 school year. Eyewitness News did speak with some school districts Wednesday and each say they're putting plans in place to be able to safely reopen in August.

Wichita Public Schools says for now, it's planning on having its first day on Aug. 13. Kansas Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers, whose previous public service includes a leadership role as president of Wichita Public Schools Board of Education, says he's encouraged by the adaptability of the education community over the past few months and is looking forward to schools reopening.

"(Districts are) being very careful and so we're looking forward to schools opening again, but we do know that parents really want their ids to be safe, no matter where they're at," Rogers says. "So, those precautions are very, very important."