USD 413 Superintendent Dr. Kellen Adams was not expecting it when Governor Laura Kelly announced her intention to sign an executive order next week that will delay the opening of schools until at least September 8.
“This announcement most certainly took me by surprise,” Adams said. “There was no prior knowledge of this possibility by anyone in our district.”
Chanute was set to start school on August 12, while teachers were supposed to report on August 10.
The Kansas State Department of Education held a Zoom meeting Thursday afternoon, with officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment talking to school districts about their plans to open up schools safely.
Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, said no one knows what will be on the governor’s order.
“We just don’t have any idea what the order is going to say. Obviously we know the date has been pushed back, but we will get the document next week and we will discuss it on Tuesday,” Watson said. “One thing I will say is this order will not have any effect on how many days a child goes to school. All it will do is make the school year run one month later.”
Watson said the Board of Education came up with three plans for the 2020-21 school year.
On-site Learning Environment: students and teachers will be in school with or without social distancing practices put into place.
Hybrid Learning Environment: students will spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time learning virtually from home.
Remote Learning Environment: students will do all of their learning from home and not enter the school building at all.
Watson said schools doing either hybrid learning or remote learning should not plan on hosting activities such as athletics or band concerts. “Obviously, I know a lot of people are concerned about athletics. But I can see athletics being affected this year,” Watson said. “If you can’t hold school at the school, then I don’t know how it would be alright to hold athletic events.
“This is a very political issue and we have to be sure whatever we do, we toe the line and try to respect everyone’s views. We have people that believe it’s all a hoax and nothing more than the common cold. We also have people that believe it is a life or death matter.”
Kathy Busch, Chair of the Kansas State Board of Education said she wants teachers to return to school in August to get used to being in their classrooms and to come up with plans.
Ashley Goss, KDHE Deputy Secretary for Public Health, went through some guidelines she hopes schools will follow.
“All staff members should have their temperature checked at the door upon arrival and asked if they are experiencing any of the many symptoms of COVID-19. If they have two or more of the symptoms, they should be sent home immediately. They shouldn’t be allowed to go to their classroom. If you want your planner, you need to make arrangements to have another teacher pick it up and drop it off to you,” she said.
Goss said they will try to give parents as much information about the virus as they can, so they can help teachers out by keeping a child home who is experiencing any symptoms.
“The hard part is coming up with a plan for the students. If you have them lined up in the hall before they can enter, then social distancing isn’t taking place. Also, checking temperatures of every kid is going to cut into school time,” she said.
One of many concerns Watson had was how to safely transport kids to and from school.
“Kids are going to be standing around waiting for the bus. They are going to come into contact with so many other students there than they would in just the classroom. We have to find a way to keep the children from different busses separated while waiting. Whether that is holding them later than other students, that is for you to decide,” he said.
Busch said the current reopening plan calls for seventh grade through high school to be required to wear masks or face shields, while Pre-K through sixth grade will not be required to wear coverings.
“We just feel that requiring a young kid to wear a mask is going to be a distraction to the student. We will require their teachers to wear masks, though,” Busch said.
Earlier this week, KSDE released a 1,088-page pdf on its website with plans and guidance about reopening schools. It can be viewed at www.ksde.org
More information will be released early next week after the board has a chance to view Kelly’s executive order.
Kelly made a brief appearance during the meeting saying, “I urge everyone to talk to your commissioners and have them rethink their position on not wearing masks. As you can see, the numbers are going way up and we need everyone to do their part to slow the spread.”