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Gov. Laura Kelly to delay schools reopening until after Labor Day

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 1:27 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:39 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday she will issue an executive order next week to delay reopening schools until after Labor Day.

The governor said her decision is based on the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas. She said public health experts have been clear that large, indoor gatherings are the quickest way to spread the virus.

“I cannot, in good conscience, open schools when Kansas has hot spots where cases are at an all-time high and continuing to rapidly rise. Putting nearly half a million kids in daily large gatherings is the exact opposite of what health experts have urged us to do,” said Gov. Kelly.

The governor said she will issue another executive order requiring the recommendations approved by the Kansas Board of Education to be mandatory guidelines that school districts follow as they move forward with their plans. She said masks, social distancing, proper hygiene and daily temperature checks will be enforced regardless of the county the school is in.

“This plan is not a mechanism for reopening schools. It will serve as a guide for school districts on how to meet the curriculum requirements and deliver the best possible education to students,” said the governor.

Gov. Kelly said the additional three weeks will allow health officials to revisit the numbers and hopefully, see a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

She said the additional time will also allow school districts to work with their local health departments to secure necessities such as masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer. She said it will also give each superintendent time to thoroughly review the plan and figure out what strategy is best for their district.

LIVE: Governor to announce fall plan for schools

LIVE: Governor to announce fall plan for schools

Posted by KWCH 12 Eyewitness News on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Update: Wednesday, July 15, 2020:

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.

Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2020:

The Kansas State Board of Education released Tuesday a draft of its recommendations for schools to reopen in the fall. KBOE said the one factor that districts need to consider in conjunction with the local health department is the “degree of community spread of COVID-19.”

“If there is very little community spread, schools may operate close to normal with some preventive measures in place, and an On-Site Learning Environment would be appropriate. If the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community increases, a district will need to increase preventive measures, which could include limiting the number of students at school, a Hybrid Learning Environment or shifting to a Remote Learning Environment where few or no students attend school on-site,” said the state education department.

The document, “Navigating Change: Kansas Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations” divides learning environments into three categories: on-site learning, hybrid learning and remote learning. It also breaks down levels of risk districts should consider when reopening: low, moderate and high.

“You have to take care of the people that are going to take care of the kids. You have to do both. If you listen, and my daughter is one of those, ‘dad, make us safe,‘” said Dr. Randy Watson, the state’s education commissioner, as he talked about the challenge before nearly 300 school districts in the state.

“Every community has to figure out what’s best for them. It’s not going to look the same because circumstances around Kansas are different,” said Mark Tallman, Associate Executive Director Kansas Association of School Board.

Plans for each district are bound to be different, but KBOE is making recommendations for them follow as they plan to reopen schools in the fall.

KBOE suggests masks for visitors, staff and students, especially where social distancing and cohorts cannot be maintained. It recommends anyone arriving at school wash their hands and every hour after. Backpacks and personal items are encouraged to be sanitized and not shared, disinfectant should be used on all work stations and the use of lockers, which KBOE calls high-touch points areas, is discouraged.

The document goes on to make recommendations for ill students and staff members. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 may only return to school after 10 days, even if asymptomatic, and after being fever-free for 72 hours if they have symptoms. The same is recommended for anyone who is untested but experiences COVID-19 symptoms. Those awaiting testing results must remain at home in isolation until their results come back. A negative result with close contact, known exposure or travel to a location on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Travel-related Quarantine List must quarantine for 14 days.

According to the document, each school should have a designated room or space separate from the nurse’s office to isolate students or employees who have COVID-19 while they await pick up. Custodial staff would be contacted to clean the space last used by the infected person within 24 hours, unless the building is closed, and school staff would immediately begin contacting close contacts (anyone who would have been within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more) of the infected person.

Schools are directed to contact the local health department. They may opt to close for a minimum of two to five days. Another option allows the school to remain open but block off areas where the person infected with COVID-19 was in the school building.

School districts are encouraged to establish stable groups, when possible (middle school/high school may be part of multiple stable groups), adopt policies for social distancing, and direct students to face forward in class and during transition periods to prevent face-to-face interaction.

In the classroom, the board suggests delaying academic instructional activity to start school with a focus on social and emotional learning activities that includes trauma screening and supports to help students and adults deal with grief, loss, etc.

“Assess students’ capacity and readiness to learn and address gaps from the previous year prior to focusing on academics and classroom plans. Socio-emotional supports should then be continued throughout the school year and be integrated into students’ regular learning opportunities,” reads the document.

KBOE recommends all lockers be closed and locked, or staggering transition times to allow for social distancing if lockers are needed, to decrease the number of students in hallways. Students would now also be encouraged to go the restroom during instructional time to prevent

Districts are encouraged to look at alternating schedules when attending on-site classes to adhere to smaller groups of students, including half days, block scheduling, alternating days, and other hybrid models. Schools may want to stagger arrivals, departures, and transitions within the school to avoid larger gatherings.

Districts are highly encouraged to look at their attendance policies and communicate how those might be relaxed and/or altered during various phases and postpone widely publicized awards, such as perfect attendance, when students and staff members should stay at home.

The National Federation of State High School Associations breaks down sports into the three categories: Higher Risk, Moderate Risk, and Low Risk. KBOE said each district will need to determine what is feasible in their settings and make adjustments accordingly.

  • Higher Risk Activities: Wrestling, Football, Lacrosse, Cheer (stunting)
  • Moderate Risk Activities: Basketball, Volleyball, Baseball/Softball, Soccer, Gymnastics, Swim Relays, Pole Vault, High Jump, Long Jump
  • Lower Risk Activities: Individual Running Events, Sideline Cheer/Dance, Cross Country

“It is strongly encouraged that districts are in close communication with their local health department/health officers,” said the state education department.

As for other extracurricular activities, KBOE said marching bands should refer to KSHSAA guidelines and NFHS information regarding instrument hygiene. Orchestra and concert bands are encouraged to find venues where 6 feet or greater distancing is available and face masks are worn when feasible. Theatre casts encouraged to do the same, adding size/spacing requirements for staging/ choreography to allow for a personal distance of at least 6 feet or 10 feet when singing.

Read the full document on “Navigating Change” here. You can find specifics on school operations beginning on page 1002.

KBOE will vote on the recommended guidance Wednesday.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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