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Gov. Kelly pushes school reopening to after Labor Day

Governor Laura Kelly discusses reopening plans for schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Governor Laura Kelly discusses reopening plans for schools for the 2020-2021 school year.(WIBW)
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 3:27 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 2:10 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Update: Governor Laura Kelly has delayed the opening of schools until after Labor Day.

Governor Laura Kelly says due to upward trends of COVID-19 she will be reopening schools after Labor Day, including all school-related activities. She says she will sign an Executive Order on Monday, July 20, declaring the new date.

“I can’t in good conscience open schools when cases in our state are at an all-time high and continuing to rapidly rise,” Governor Kelly said. “Every action I have taken throughout this pandemic has been done to keep Kansans healthy, keep our state open for business and get our kids back in school.”

Gov. Kelly says she knows she made the right decision by closing schools as well as the strain that put on families and the impact it had on kids. She says she wants to be clear that the new Kansas Board of Education plan is not a mechanism to keep schools open, but guidelines should the virus spread further.

Gov. Kelly says this is not a decision she takes lightly. She says she has kept three things in mind when making decisions for the state during the COVID-19 pandemic: keeping Kansans healthy, keeping Kansas open for business and getting kids back in school.

“The additional three weeks before opening schools will provide schools time to work with their counties to get the necessary mitigation supplies like masks, thermometers, and hand sanitizer,” Governor Kelly said. “The Kansas State Board of Education and I are united in prioritizing the health of our students and faculty, and ensuring we provide a world-class education for our students.”

Kelly says the facts are that in late may Kansas successfully flattened the curve due to actions taken such as her Ad Astra Plan for Reopening. She says the total cases before Memorial Day weekend were trending downward, however, a rise in politics was detrimental to the State. In the June special Legislative session, the Kansas Legislature wanted to take away Gov. Kelly’s emergency powers. She says taking away her emergency powers would have hindered her ability to distribute PPE and other COVID-19 precautions.

“People choosing to reject common sense and health measures does not happen in a vacuum,” says Governor Kelly.

Gov. Kelly says when power was given to them on how to reopen county commissions voted to remove guidelines. However, she says the virus doesn’t take political sides and the state saw numbers skyrocket. Vice President Pence says, “face masks are instruments of freedom for Americans if we use them.” and Director Redfield of the CDC says COVID-19 could be controlled in 1-2 months if everyone wore masks, which were both factors in her executive order mandating masks.

Dr. Lee Norman confirmed Kelly’s claims of the political sabotage of the reopening of the state with a chart showing the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases in the state. He says there is no way to reopen or keep businesses open if the trend continues. He says Kansans must acknowledge their actions as individuals. Norman confirms that we need healthy Kansans to ensure a healthy Kansas.

Governor Kelly says due to the boom in cases she is delaying school reopenings until after labor day which she will sign an Executive Order to declare on Monday, July 20. She says the three avenues students will have will be in-person classes, distance learning and a hybrid of the two. She says her administration is united in prioritizing health and ensuring a world-class education for Kansans which is why she is asking leaders and elected officials to join her efforts and follow guidelines of health officials. She will also sign another executive order declaring the recommendations made by the KSDE on Wednesday to be made mandatory.

“That means masks, social distancing, proper hygiene and daily temperature checks will be enforced regardless of the county the school is in,” said the governor.

Returning to school is important but safety is more important says Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas State Department of Education Commissioner. He says he assembled educators administrators and health care officials to design a plan to reopen schools in the fall. He says the new document is one meant to help schools navigate should COVID-19 require further restrictions in the future.

Dr. Watson says right now school districts are working collaboratively to finalize plans for the 2020-2021 school year. He says he will meet with teams of community members from school districts starting tomorrow, Thursday, July 16. He says every school district has been tasked with the difficulty of building a broad base of community members to guide each district.

Dr. Watson says plans will and should be unique to each community. He says each plan will be based on the needs of each district. He says schools will still be expected to adhere to rigorous safety precautions, but the guidelines will allow districts flexibility and options.

Kansas House Leadership released this statement after the Governor’s decision:

Senate President Susan Wagle also released this statement:

Posted July 15th, 2020 at 9:00a.m.:

Gov. Laura Kelly is set to announce her plan for Kansas schools this fall.

She has set a Wednesday news conference to share details. It’s set to begin at 3:00 p.m.

Her new conference comes after the Kansas Board of Education unanimously approved its recommendations for reopening schools in the fall. The board will send its recommendations to school districts, allowing them to create their own reopening plans. Some of the recommendations include daily temperature checks for staff members, adopt social distancing policies, and masks for staff, visitors, and most students.

Kelly was the first governor in the nation to close school buildings amid the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. Districts finished out the year utilizing various online platforms. Several districts have already said they’re developing contingency plans accounting for all in-person classes, all online learning, and a hybrid of in-person and online classes.

You can watch the news conference LIVE on Channel 13, also streaming live on WIBW.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright 2020 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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