Governor’s plan: What it means for schools

Kansas schools are still closed, but some possible loosening of restrictions on students being taught in school buildings are included in Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to gradually re-open Kansas during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Even so, the issue of how or if schools will reopen on time for the upcoming school year remains in question. In her statewide televised address on Thursday, Kelly said, “We don’t yet know what school will look like in August.” 

On March 17, Kelly issued an executive order that closed schools to student instruction until May 29 with the exception of operating a school with fewer than 10 students, instructors or staff while observing social distancing. The order also put into motion what has become the Continuous Leaning plan for students to be instructed through online teaching and lesson packets dropped off at students’ homes.  

In her new plan, Kelly states it may be possible, no earlier than May 18, for K-12 educational facilities to increase the 10-person limit to 30 students, instructors or staff to be present for normal operations. Additionally, her plan envisions the possibility of increasing that further to 90 people on June 1 or later. 

Kelly said the phased-in plan should be seen as a baseline structure to reopen the Kansas economy and that local governments can impose additional restrictions as they see fit.  

Kelly said she will evaluate numerous factors to determine if the state should move to the next phase of opening. Those factors include the state’s disease spread, testing rates, death rates, hospitalizations, ability of state and local public health authorities to contain outbreaks and conduct contact tracing, and personal protective equipment availability. 

Throughout the phases, Kelly urged Kansans to continue to adhere to hygiene and social distancing protocols, including: washing hands frequently, while avoiding contact with one’s face; remaining home when sick or running a fever; following isolation and quarantine orders issued by state or local health officers; wearing a cloth face mask when in public and working remotely, if possible.  

“Even if Kansans do everything perfectly for the next couple of months, new outbreaks are almost inevitable until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, manufactured and made widely available. It is essential that we make this transition slowly, gradually and cautiously,” Kelly said. 

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