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Kansas State Board of Education votes 5-5 rejecting governor’s executive order delaying the start of school

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas State Board of Education voted 5-5 rejecting the governor’s order to delay the start of school until after Labor Day.

Local school boards in Kansas are allowed to reopen elementary, middle and high schools in mid-August as they normally would, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.

BREAKDOWN OF THE VOTE:

  • Janet Waugh, District 1: Yes
  • Steve Roberts, District 2: No
  • Michelle Dombrosky, District 3: No
  • Ann Mah, District 4: Yes
  • Jean Clifford, District 5: No
  • Deena Horst, District 6: No
  • Ben Jones, District 7: No
  • Kathy Busch, District 8: Yes
  • Jim Porter, District 9: Yes
  • Jim McNiece, District 10: Yes

Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan was to postpone the start of fall classes for three weeks, until Sept. 9. The board’s action leaves decisions about when to reopen to the state’s 286 local school boards. Kelly argued that a resurgence in coronavirus cases has made it necessary to give public and private schools more time to prepare, but a Kansas law required her to get the state board’s approval.

Kelly’s proposed order for a delay would have prohibited classes and other activities through Sept. 8, except that local school districts could have enrolled students for the fall, assessed students with special needs and done off-site instruction for high school classes that also earn students college credits. The order also would not have applied to home schools.

The following statements are from Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas Democratic Party regarding the State Board of Education’s vote:

“The cases of COVID-19 in Kansas are at an all-time high and continue to rise. Our decisions must be informed by public health experts not politics. This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk.

“I will continue to work with our school districts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children and ask every school district to delay the start of school.”

Gov. Laura Kelly

“The State Board of Education’s decision is extremely disappointing. As a former educator, I support the Governor’s order to provide a safe environment for students and teachers to facilitate a quality education. Reopening schools without the adequate safeguards in place not only puts our children, teachers, parents and administrators at risk of contracting a virus with unknown future health complications, it jeopardizes public health statewide and Kansas’s economic viability.”

Kansas Democratic Party Chair vicki Hiatt

“Five of our state board members chose to lead with courage at a time when leadership is needed, and they have our sincere appreciation. Sadly, five others shruggd their shoulders and told our students and eductaiors ‘sorry, not our problem.’ Every educator in Kansas wants- more than anything- to be back in school with students. As we’ve seen over and over, this virus doesn’t recognize boundaries or borders and is only controlled when everyone does their part. Today’s split-vote ensures that partisan opinion will guide decision making in many districts rather than common sense, rooted in science and supported by medical experts. Sadly, many district leaders have already indicated that they intend to return to ‘business as usual,’ which has proven to be a recipe to grow the spread and impact of this pandemic.”

 Kansas NEA President Mark Farr

“”We are incredibly disappointed. Putting this decision at the local level is the wrong approach to this pandemic in Kansas.”

United Teachers of Wichita

The state had more than 23,000 reported cases and 300 reported COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Last week, the board approved roughly 1,100 pages of reopening guidelines for local boards of education.

School Response

While most schools have not yet made a final decision for when they will start schools, we have heard from some:

Andover: “We’re not in a position to comment today.”

Wichita Public Schools: Plan to take up the matter Thursday

Goddard: Not in a position to comment

Hutchinson: Will discuss possible adjustments at July 27 meeting

Great Bend: Plan to discuss next week at scheduled special meeting

Newton (through Twitter): “Expect information from Monday’s board meeting”

Ark City: Will review district’s plan at July 27 meeting

Dodge City: Will hold special meeting on July 27 to discuss return to school plan

El Dorado: Special meeting to discuss on July 27

Garden City: School will start on August 17

Holcomb: School will start on August 17

Wellington: Meeting Monday to discuss plan. Final vote will be on August 10

Montezuma: Will start on August 26

Maize: Working on a plan and will update soon

Copeland: Will start on August 26

Winfield: Special meeting tonight to discuss. Regular meeting on Monday July 27

Smoky Valley: Nothing planned yet but will hopefully have an update within a week

Central Christian Academy in Great Bend will start August 19

Remington-Whitewater: Plan to be shared week of August 3

Central Plains: Will discuss July 27

Emporia: Board will discuss Wednesday night. Not planning to take final action tonight

Ness: School is expected to start on August 24

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