State Board of Education to take up COVID-19 changes for schools

State education leaders are moving to implement emergency measures to help districts deal with the new school year under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During its monthly meeting next week, the State Board of Education will discuss ways to support schools and families during the pandemic, declare an emergency to allow more substitute teachers to teach regularly and consider extending the option of postponing accreditation activities through the end of the school year. Here is a link to the State Board’s agenda and backup documents.

Speaking to school board members last week during a KASB Advocacy Update, Kansas Education Education Commissioner acknowledged that many districts have faced steep challenges in starting the new school year. “The pandemic is taking a toll on every single person,” Watson said.

Since schools were closed in March and then reopened this fall, students, teachers and families have experienced a roller-coaster of changes. Most students ended the last school year learning remotely, while this year many schools are teaching remotely, onsite or through a combination of the two methods.

The changes have produced a lot of stress, anxiety and discussion as local boards have navigated increases in COVID-19 cases, mask mandates and how to conduct extracurricular activities, such as football.

On Tuesday (Oct. 13), the State Board will consider declaring an emergency because of the pandemic and allowing substitutes to teach regularly if they have a five-year substitute teaching license or an emergency substitute teaching license or certificate with a baccalaureate degree. This would remain in effect through the end of the school year in June. Education leaders say many districts need additional staff to keep students socially distanced and that the pandemic has made it more difficult for districts to hire and retain qualified teaching staff.

The board also will vote on whether to extend through June 30, as a voluntary option for districts, suspension of Kansas Education System Accreditation activities. Last month, the State Board gave the option to suspend KESA through the fall semester.

On Wednesday (Oct. 14), the State Board will hear from 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year team members, who will talk about their experiences during the disruption of school.

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