Kansas Education officials discuss health, education and COVID-19

Kansas Education officials met to discuss Health Rankings and Education for the state and USD 501.
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 5:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - State education leaders discussed the connection between health and education for the Shawnee County Health Rankings meeting.

USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson, alongside Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers discussed where the state of education is in the face of a pandemic.

Along with how health care for parents and families are impacting the students.

“The challenge for school districts will be how do we bring students back to school, fully back to school, in our largest school districts and keep them safe,” said Watson. “By the time we get enough vaccines to spread throughout Kansas, we’ll probably going to be well into the spring if not through the rest of the school year.”

Even beyond COVID-19, educators looked at how health care access can impact success in school and a child’s future.

“Schools are the center of the community. So, we have this beautiful opportunity to address all of those things in ways that make sense,” said Anderson. “In terms of access to education. We know prisons are built based on a 3rd and 4th grade literacy rates. So by virtue of not giving students access to schooling, we are literally feeding the school to prison pipeline.”

One challenge in bringing kids back to school right now is having space to keep class sizes small, to prevent spreading COVID. Watson and Anderson suggest districts get creative. Watson brought up the possibility of utilizing vacant malls, community centers, churches and other vacant buildings.

Watson said, “Where we can have classes of student and we can keep education going all year so parents have somewhere to send their children. They know they’re going to be fully educated and we can slow the spread of the virus. We have to be diligent in doing both going forward.”

Many parents also are struggling with technology as well so Topeka Public Schools is hosting a Zoom call called – “District Parent Academies” - to help them navigate challenges of helping their students with at-home learning.

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