Kansas State Board of Education releases guidance for upcoming school year

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 18:59:53-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — As COVID-19 cases surpass 20,000 in the state, the Kansas State Board of Education offered a look at the upcoming school year on Tuesday.

The record number of cases means the board’s plans for schools will vary across the state.

"What will be presented to you for hours today and hours tomorrow is guidance to allow local people to do that work knowing what the virus is doing or not doing in a particular location,” Randy Watson, Kansas commissioner of education, said at a board meeting Tuesday.

The document of released recommendations, called “Navigating Change,” is more than 1,000 pages long, detailing what in-person and online learning will look like.

"Masks for students pre-K (through) sixth grade are not recommended to be required, primarily because the positions that were involved in the report felt like it would do more harm than good," said Craig Neuenswander, school finance team director. "Students that age are going to be distracted by their mask."

The board recommends that students in seventh grade and older wear a mask.

Students at every level will be required to wash their hands upon arrival and every hour of the day.

Students and staff awaiting COVID-19 test results would be required to isolate at home. If that person is positive, they must wait 10 days after symptoms have passed and be fever-free for 72 hours before returning to school.

Asymptomatic patients must wait 10 days following their initial test, and anyone who came in close contact with a positive patient must quarantine for 14 days.

"I will tell you that there's nothing disappointing about this guidance document that these almost 1,000 Kansans have brought you,” Watson said.

A new study from Kansas State University showed the top concerns of teachers as they prepare to return to work.

"Teachers love their students. I firmly believe teaching is a calling and teachers have huge hearts and so they're worried about their students,” said Debbie Mercer, dean and professor at Kansas State University's College of Education.

In all, 800 teachers from around the state participated in the study, which found 82% of them were concerned about the social and emotional well-being of their students. In addition, 66% of them also were taking care of their own children or the elderly.

"Teachers on a daily basis rely on their flexibility, their ability to adapt quickly, their ability to size up needs and then come up with creative responses to those needs," Mercer said. "I think we saw that last spring, and I think regardless of what the fall holds for us, we'll see that from Kansas teachers again."

According to the board’s recommendations, social distancing will be required when possible. Transition periods would be staggered to limit the number of students in the hallways, and the use of lockers would not be allowed this school year.

The board will decide whether to accept the recommendations on Wednesday. It would serve as the framework for all schools in the state.