Kansas State Board of Education votes to approve school reopening guidelines

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 7:00 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas State Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve guidelines school districts across the state can use to reopen.

The one thousand page document titled “Navigating Change- Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations” is the product of collaboration of educators, health care workers, parents and other community that offers recommendations for schools to use develop reopening plans.

The guidelines will now move to school districts to decide which of the guidelines to adopt.

The guidance cover strategies schools can use for in-person, remote and hybrid learning as well as how to make the learning environments effective.

"We're working with over 500 educators, service centers and other people what's the staff development? What's the training that parents, students, and teachers are going to need to go through to be either in remote learning, hybrid learning or back in school safely," Education Commissioner Randy Watson said.

Watson said the local impact of COVID-19 is essential in deciding how each school district can plan to reopen.

“We still have some counties in Kansas that have zero disease since the onset and we have other counties that are experiencing a great surge and they’ll use those documents differently based on the criteria of that virus.”

According to KSDE, the general guidelines for districts to consider when determining which environment should be implemented include:

  • Low restrictions: Utilize on-site learning when disease spread, as represented by the daily case rate of new cases by onset date, is low or on a steady decline.
  • Moderate restrictions: Utilize hybrid learning when disease spread, as represented by the daily case rate of new cases by onset date, is flat.
  • High restrictions: Utilize remote learning when disease spread, as represented by the daily case rate of new cases by onset date, has been increasing over four to six weeks or less as determined by the health department.

Districts will need flexibility to navigate changing circumstances created by the pandemic. This includes schools needing to transition in and out of different learning environments, staffing fluctuations, etc. The guidance includes recommendations for implementing a competency-based approach to education.

Board Member Ann Mah of Topeka said teachers should be part of the process.

"We think teachers are pretty smart we had nearly a thousand educators involved in writing this document and they have the answers the teachers need to make sure the teachers are in on the plan."

Mah believed there should be a diverse set of voices when district planning committees are formed.

“I would hope that they’re involving business people, parents, and other communities in that planning because we’re all impacted by whether or not schools are reopened and whether or not they remain open.”

She said now that districts have guidance on how to prepare schools should be able to meet learning benchmarks regardless of how the district chooses to educate its students.

“These kids have been out of school for six months there are a lot of them that are way behind there are some of them that thrived in online learning but some not so much so the fall is about accountability,” she said.

"We're gonna have to hold the schools accountable for the number of hours that they have to teach that every child is reached and that there is equitable learning across the board; they know too they have to deliver better learning than they did in the spring and I think they're working toward that."

The Education Commissioner will begin virtual meetings with superintendents Thursday to discuss the guidelines.

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