Kansas State Board of Education adjusts in-person recommendations, provides flexibility for schools

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Changes could be coming to school schedules across the state.

The Kansas State Board of Education is meeting virtually Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, it amended its guidance to local school boards to recommend that teaching at elementary schools should be in person, or at least hybrid, even if coronavirus cases are high in the community.

“The chance of the virus impacting elementary schools, both from a student and a teacher standpoint is so low that the risk of not being in school is greater than the risk of being in school,” said Randy Watson, the state education commissioner.

Watson said education officials are basing the decision on what state medical experts are telling them.

Board members voted to approve the change to amend language in the guidance document for schools, Navigating Change. Board members also chose to give schools some flexibility on how much time needs to be spent teaching.

The state requires that students receive 1,116 hours of learning each school year.

To give students and staff a bit of a break, districts will have the opportunity to cut 20 hours of learning time or about three school days and use that time as professional development for things like teacher collaboration or conferences.

“The majority of school districts already utilized all of their staff development and many don’t have any time for that break over the next several months,” Watson said.

This will let local districts work to figure out how to safely teach through the winter until a vaccine is widely distributed.

“They’ve been working without the additional opportunity of collaboration time,” said Board Chair Kathy Busch about schools and how they are using the board’s guidance.

She said this will let them find the best ways to hold school.

“What can we do with what we’ve learned so far and how can we move forward, I think this could be real beneficial for folks,” Busch said.

Busch said the board can change the number of required hours in the future if needed.

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