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Kansas planning to reopen schools in August

(WSAZ)
Published: May. 12, 2020 at 1:53 PM CDT
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Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson on Tuesday said the state is planning to start school in August, but added that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) is planning for every contingency.

“We are cautiously optimistic we will be in school in August 2020,” Watson told the

. “There are too many students who cannot grow socially and emotionally if they are not in the building."

Watson said while the KSDE will provide guidance for districts in the state, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and health and school officials at local levels will make the ultimate decisions on opening schools, how that will be done and what, if any restrictions may be in place.

The August start to school is the goal, but Watson said a group of educators is working to review and prioritize state education standards. From that, a leadership group will produce guidance to school districts in July to "help them redesign their operations."

This, he told the KASB, will hopefully help schools, if classes are interrupted again because of COVID-19.

A March 17 executive order from Governor Kelly stopped K-12 schools from gathering in-person at district buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Kelly also ordered KSDE to formulate guidance for school districts on putting in place Continuous Learning Plans for the state’s approximately half-million students.

Kelly recently said Kansas’ ability to shut school buildings and quickly switch to continuous learning online will make it easier to do so again if the COVID-19 pandemic reaches a level where districts again need to go remote.

“I think the fact that our schools within a matter of three or four days were able to put together a pretty comprehensive continuous learning program outside of our school buildings will give us the freedom in November if we have to to say, `You know what, we have to get out of the buildings for a while, but then we can re-implement those continuous learning programs,’” Kelly said.

While proud of the state's response to school building closures, online learning presents many challenges for students, families and teachers, members of Kansas' education community pointed out.

"In discussions with local school board members from across the state, concerns have been raised about a significant number of students who don’t have internet access to continue their studies at home, the difficulty in reaching some students simply to check if they are OK and providing help for children with disabilities," said the

.