Because of COVID-19, districts have option to pause KESA during the fall semester

State education leaders Tuesday voted to allow districts some breathing room in the accreditation process as Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson reported an unprecedented level of stress on schools as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic during reopening. 

Watson asked the State Board of Education to allow public and private schools the option of suspending KESA activities through the fall semester. The board agreed and will hear a report on emotional and academic data from districts in January. 

KESA is the state’s K-12 accrediting model. KESA accredits at the district level to create systemic change focused on five goals: Social-emotional factors measured locally, kindergarten readiness, individual plans of study, high school graduation and postsecondary success.  

After a two-week visit of western Kansas districts, Watson said school boards, administrators and teachers are under more stress and public criticism than ever as they grapple with opening on-site, remotely or a combination of both. Watson said he has had conversations in parking lots with superintendents, who have said to him, “I’ve been doing this a long time and I no longer want to do it. I can’t do this anymore.” 

Watson said his major concern is making sure students are assessed emotionally, socially and academically. Schools were closed in mid-March because of the pandemic.  

Watson said he is concerned that young students, poor students and students with disabilities will be the ones who fall behind the most during this pandemic. 

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