Local school boards in Kansas will be allowed to reopen elementary, middle and high schools in mid-August as they normally would, despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.
The Republican-controlled State Board of Education voted 5-5, and rejected Governor Laura Kelly’s plan to postpone the start of fall classes for three weeks, until after Labor Day.
The 10-member elected board’s action leaves decisions about when to reopen to the state’s 286 local school boards.
The board’s action prevents Kelly from issuing an executive order setting Sept. 9 as the start of classes for both public K-12 schools and private ones that are accredited by the state.
The governor already ordered those schools to have students and staff wear masks and have them checked daily for fever, and those mandates still stand.
“This virus is not the same across the state,” said board member Jean Clifford, a Garden City Republican who opposed Kelly’s plan.
The board’s vote was required under a law enacted last month as a compromise between Kelly and GOP lawmakers who pushed to curb her power.
Republicans have an 8-2 majority on the board and Kelly needed four GOP votes to prevail. Her plan received three.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocate that school reopening plans start “with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
Educators and state and local officials agree that children benefit from interacting with each other and that in-person classes generally are better for instruction than online classes.
Kansas also has a long tradition of letting local school districts set their own schedules and decide what’s taught and how their buildings operate.