Kansas education officials brief school board members about work on re-opening schools guidance document

Top Kansas education officials Friday reviewed for local school board members work on the state level to re-open schools in August, accommodate students and staff who may not return because of health concerns, and prepare for possible future closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a video address, Education Commissioner Randy Watson explained that approximately 1,000 Kansans, including teachers, board members, parents, health officials and others, are working on a guidance document for districts. Here is a link to that video.

The “Navigating Change 2020” guidance, which will be submitted to the State Board of Education on July 14, will provide districts with options and recommendations on how to keep students and educators safe and provide high quality learning to students, including online instruction.

Watson said the guidance will contain no mandates, but leave decisions to local school districts on the best way to operate when the new school year starts.

Watson advised local school board members to develop solid working relationships with their local county health department and county commissioners because those officials will be instrumental in deciding local restrictions and closures during the pandemic. He also advised districts to be flexible in delivering instruction. “Don’t lock in now on one model,” he said.

Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander spoke with local board members from across the state during the KASB Advocacy update via Zoom.

Neuenswander encouraged local districts to survey and communicate with their communities to let them know there will be options when school starts. Many school districts have jumped into planning for numerous contingencies as they prepare for the next school year.

Gov. Laura Kelly shut down schools in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus and educators switched to online continuous learning plans for most instruction through the end of the year. Kansas’ continuous learning plans have been praised throughout the nation.

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