COVID and Kansas public educationScott Rothschild
KASB has prepared a summary of what has transpired during this unprecedented disruption of public education and this historic response by educators, policymakers and everyday citizens across Kansas. We hope this handy guide to documents and policies will help as we go forward and continue teaching the next generation of Kansans.
School closure for health and safety
Commission of Education Randy Watson “strongly recommends” public schools close for two weeks. (March 16)
Statewide organizations representing school boards, teachers and administrators offer support and guidance for dealing with school closure. Joint statement by Education Organizations, March 16. (KASB COVID-Resources page)
Governor Laura Kelly orders schools all public and private school closed for most operations until May 29 due to health emergency but directs learning to continue; with certain exemptions that comply with health directives. (March 17)
Governor’s executive order, Video of Governor’s News Conference , Joint News Release by Education Organizations, Key Points from Governor’s Address on the Executive Order , (KASB COVID-19 Resources page)
KASB President Shannon Kimball calls on school board members to rise to this challenge, learn from the experience and use it to create a better future, March 19. Statement (KASB COVID-19 Resources page)
Kansas Legislature passes legislation to facilitate school closing while maintaining learning, paying employees; approves budget.
SB 142, passed March 17 and signed by the Governor March 19, clarifies State Board of Education authority to waive minimum school term requirements based on a disaster declaration or health emergency. The bill also expresses Legislative intent that any school district applying for a waiver continue to pay all current hourly employees, including, but not limited to, paras, maintenance and custodial employees. (Bill information)
The state budget bill, SB 66, passed March 19, provides full funding for base state aid per pupil and other school finance programs adopted by the Legislature in response to the Gannon school finance case. It also includes language “to require the State Board of Education to require school districts submit continuous learning plans to receive a waiver from school attendance requirements in FY 2020.”
State Department of Education issues requirements, assistance, guidelines for continuing student services.
KSDE convened a task force of educators to develop guidance for continuous learning to finish the school term. The goal is to focus on providing the most essential learning for students over the next two months. Methods may include virtual learning, non-technology (delivering and collecting materials from homes), home visits and small groups, depending on what can be delivered while meeting health guidelines. The report was released March 20. Report (KASB COVID-19 Resources page)
To receive a waiver for the school term requirements, local boards must approve and districts must submit a waiver application by April 8, which must include the district’s plan for continuous learning.
As required by federal and state law, school districts must continue to provide special education services to exceptional children.
Kansas State Department of Education Guidance on Compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Kansas Special Education for Exceptional Children Act during the COVID-19 Pandemic (KASB COVID-19 Resource Page)
School districts are continuing to provide meal service to students. This may include both pick-up at school and home delivery, and meal service when schools are closed. KSDE News Release , KSDE School Nutrition Programs Updates
There is not currently a statewide order for closure of child care facilities, including child care facilities operated by school districts. Kansas Department of Health and Environment Guidance for Supporting Families in Accessing Healthy and Safe Child Care During the COVID-19 Outbreak
School boards must continue to meet and comply with open meetings requirements.
Local boards of education continue to meet at least monthly to conduct business as required by state law and district policies. However, these meetings may be modified in some ways to respond to health directives.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has proposed new regulations to cover open meetings issues when districts are practicing social distancing. Boards are allowed to meet by telecommunications and to limit in-person attendance, but must ensure that the public still has the ability to observe the meeting in some way and can follow the action of the meeting (who is speaking, voting, etc.) Open meeting guidance from Kansas Attorney General March 20 2020. (KASB COVID-19 Resources page)
Students will have continuous learning opportunities and expectations, but some requirements may be modified.
The target for beginning to provide structured continuing learning for students outside of the traditional school building and classroom is Monday, March 30.
The state minimum requirements for high school graduation have not changed. Local school boards may reduce the number of credits required to graduate if their policy exceeds state requirements.
It will be up to local educators and policies to determine whether students demonstrate competency to earn credits or promotion from grade level through continuous learning programs.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association has indicated that it will use student academic performance or progress in this semester to determine eligibility for next year.
The U.S. Department of Education has allowed the state to waive state academic assessment due to school closures.
School districts must continue to comply with student privacy laws. Student Data Privacy During the COVID-19 Pandemic (KASB COVID-19 Resources page)
School districts are expected to continue to employ almost all current staff and continue to provide employee rights and benefits.
Certificated employees will continue to be paid based and work according to their contracts to provide continuous learning for students while maintaining social distancing.
School districts will continue to follow state laws regarding staff evaluation, continuing contracts and professional negotiations. These include the third Friday in May (May 15) deadline for non-renewal notices and March 31 date for exchanging notice of items under the professional negotiations act.
The Kansas Legislature expressed its intent that classified (hourly) employees continue to be paid. Districts may consider addressing this through leave without pay or providing other duties for such employers while observing social distancing and other health steps.
KSDE is recommending that long-term substitutes and supplemental contracts continue to be paid based on the expected payment of these individuals.
The federal government has passed several laws concerning family and medical leave and unemployment benefits. Additional federal legislation is possible.
KASB is providing continuing support to school leaders and shifted service delivery to accommodate social distancing.
KASB provided daily video updates during the week of March 16 to 20 to help school leaders understand the impact of the Governor’s executive order, legislative action, continuous learning requirements and opportunities and other issues. (KASB YouTube Channel)
KASB provided two on-line sessions for school board clerks, human resources and others on the operational impact of COVID-Response.
KASB will host two sessions (March 26 and March 27) for school leaders to address issues for school boards surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. The forums will be limited to school board presidents, vice presidents, clerks and district superintendents. This will allow the meetings to be held within compliance of the Kansas Open Meetings law.
KASB has transformed its Spring Regional Roundtable meetings into three virtual meetings via Zoom that will focus on developments during the coronavirus crisis. The meetings will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 2, April 8 and April 9. For registration information, go to www.kasb.org and click on Upcoming Events. The meetings will include discussion and updates on COVID-19, the board’s role, continuous learning, communication strategies and legal and legislative updates.
KASB’s annual Human Resources Academy is being changed to an interactive video presentation.