TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas gubernatorial candidates Derek Schmidt and Laura Kelly are butting heads over the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In the latest conflict, Schmidt, who’s running as the Republican candidate for Governor, is calling out Democratic incumbent Kelly for ‘doubling down’ on her decision to close Kansas schools at the time.

“As governor, I have pledged I will never again lock our children out of their schools,” Schmidt said. “Governor Kelly’s decision to dig in her heels and stand by a decision that was wrong at the time, and that the results have confirmed was a complete disaster, is disqualifying. Kansas parents and students deserve better.”

In an interview in Wichita on Wednesday, Kelly spoke about her decision to close schools during the pandemic in 2020.

Other states forced their schools to close, and many students went remote.

“We have obviously, you know, started schools back up, but we have also invested a lot of money to help kids with that learning loss,” Kelly said. “We recognize that it was real. It was a very difficult time for our kids, our parents, our teachers, everyone.” 

Schmidt, who has set out on an education tour to listen to Kansas parents and students, said Kelly’s decision created a difficult time for “everyone,” and will have a lasting impact “for a generation.”

Concerns over learning loss became a reality requiring education officials and state leaders to step in.

Kelly’s executive order to close schools solidified Kansas as the first state in the nation to take that step during the pandemic. While the governor attempted to extend statewide school lockdowns into a second academic year, the Kansas State Board of Education blocked that decision.