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Kansas Board of Education reviews guidelines school districts can use when reopening

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 1:02 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The State Board of Education Tuesday got a look at guidelines from almost one thousand Kansas teachers, healthcare workers and community members on how schools can operate safely amid COVID-19 concerns.

“Keep people safe, give options, give multiple options and come in and out of those environments as you go forward,” Education Commissioner Randy Watson told Board Members.

The one thousand page document provides guidance for in-person, remote and hybrid learning as well as health initiatives schools can take to ensure safe classrooms and quality learning.

According to Watson, almost 1,000 community members including teachers, health care workers and parents put together guidance for school districts which will be utilized to determine the best safety measures for reopening schools.

Watson said community members would be able to come together to discuss further guidelines for their respective school districts reopening.

Watson said he wants community members to get involved with the process of writing guidance for schools for the 2020-2021 school year. He said communities will be able to decide when to return, when to switch to virtual learning or if hybrid classes would be best.

Watson called on every community member to try to make schools as safe as possible. He wants parents and guardians of those directly affected to be able to look at the guidelines and make the best decisions for their children’s safety.

Watson said it’s important local school leaders use the guidelines based on what COVID-19 looks like in their area to avoid a one-plan-fits-all approach.

“You take the guidance and then you take the health environment that you currently have in your school district and your county. We talk about low incidents, medium incidents and high incidents and so that guidance gets ratcheted up depending on the level of the virus in your community and your school district.”

Watson wants volunteers in local school districts to help put together the guidelines for opening, closing and safe learning environments.

Watson said he recommends washing hands every hour, limiting classroom transitions and making decisions with other members of the community.

Watson said new funding sources could help school districts improve the learning experience for students, teachers and their families which could include actions such as renting large venues for remote learners

"Counties have some money schools have some money utilize that money to the maximum extent possible to serve the families in your community."

Board Member Ann Mah  represents District 4 which includes Topeka.

She said since the guidelines address many scenarios schools may face, the guidelines can work for districts with as wide of a variety of schools.

“We have everything from a very small school to a very large, urban school and what they’re going to be dealing with is very much different but the guidelines are to address every scenario that that could come up whether we are totally remote, in-person or hybrid so I think it’ll serve Shawnee County and the surrounding area well whether rural or urban.”

She stressed families should bring their concerns to local leaders early.

 "Everybody has legitimate concerns and it has to be worked out fairly quickly so I hope people are communicating as we said today you can't communicate enough about these issues."

Mah said school districts will be kept in check to make sure students are meeting the same learning goals as their peers.

“The fall is about accountability and we plan to hold schools accountable for providing quality learning no matter how they decide to do it whether its at home, in school or some combination they have to be equitable and they have to make sure the rigorous learning is there.”

Copyright 2020 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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