Kansas schools preparing for shutdown as funding crisis looms


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – With the threat of schools in Kansas being forced to shut down looming on the horizon, most school districts are planning for the worst-case scenario.

KSN contacted a number of districts around the state to find out what they’re doing to prepare for the Kansas Supreme Court’s plan to close schools unless legislators provide adequate funding for K-12 education.

For the most part, school districts say their teachers will be paid through the summer. But, with so much up in the air, school officials are very concerned about what will happen after the June 30th deadline.

Schools across Kansas are in limbo, anxiously waiting for the legislature to come up with a funding plan that will meet the high court’s requirements.  Lawmakers didn’t develop a new funding plan during the most recent legislative session, so the court gave them 30 days to fix the current school funding plan or the schools will close.

If schools aren’t in session this August, many teachers will go without a paycheck until the school shutdown ends.

Most districts tell KSN if schools are forced to close, that will also force your child’s summer programs to end. That includes free meal programs in some districts, including Hutchinson, Pratt and Newton.

The Hutchinson school superintendent says those free meals are a necessity for the community, and some children may go hungry as a result.

Wichita Public Schools’ athletic director Jay Means says if the schools close, that will have a ripple effect on summer athletic programs.

“Our weight rooms will be closed, our gyms will be closed, and all our outdoor facilities will be closed,” Means said. “That would mean anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 student athletes who use those facilities during the summer for team practice camps will have no place to go.”

Another concern is who will take care of the buildings and school grounds?

“Our groundskeepers take care of our outside facilities, our custodians take care of the inside facilities and if we’re shut down those people aren’t able to work,” Means said.

School board members also are concerned about other issues, such as electricity to the schools. Wichita board member Lynn Rogers says there a lot of such worries.

“We have refrigerators full of food because we have to order that during the summer time, buildings will get moldy, facilities will deteriorate, security is a concern,” Rogers said.

With all this uncertainty, the start date for the school year is also up in the air. Dodge City officials say if a decision comes down too late in the summer, the school year will start later than usual, not giving teachers and staff enough time to prepare for a quick turnaround.

And, while there are different concerns at some schools, one common theme is frustration.

But for now, school leaders are waiting to see if lawmakers will meet the supreme court’s mandate in order to keep schools open.

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