Kansas Board of Education/YouTube
Kansas Board of Education meeting

Kansas state board rejects governor's order to keep schools closed until after Labor Day

July 22, 2020
The state board deadlocked 5 to 5 on supporting Gov. Laura Kelly's executive order to keep school buildings in the state closed until at least Sept. 9.

The Kansas State Board of Education has rejected an order an order by Gov. Laura Kelly delaying the start of school until after Labor Day.

The Kansas City Star reports that the state board deadlocked 5-5 on an executive order that would have prohibited classes from resuming until Sept. 9. The tie means the vote failed, but schools will still have to follow a separate Kelly directive requiring safety measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including masks and temperature checks.

Board members who voted no voiced support for local control and expressed confidence that school districts could best make decisions on reopening.

“It’s very confusing to parents to have their local district making a decision that is trumped by the governor’s executive order,” says board member Deena Horst, whose district includes northern Kansas.

The decision leaves districts the power to reopen as they see fit. Local school boards are likely to respond in a variety of ways, creating a patchwork of start dates across the state.

Kelly had pleaded with board members to support the order to give districts more time to take precautions against spreading the virus.

After the board’s vote, Kelly asked districts to choose on their own to delay the school year.

Before the vote, Lee Norman, the state’s top health officer, urged board members to support the order. He shared a chart showing the explosive growth in cases over the past several weeks.

“Schools are not safe islands in an unsafe community,” Norman said during the meeting, which was held on Zoom.

The late start would have given districts additional time to establish safety protocols that Kelly has set out in a separate order. The logistical challenges could be considerable.

Everyone must sanitize their hands at least once an hour and have their temperature taken when they arrive each day. Everyone — even elementary-age children — must wear a mask. Those requirements aren’t affected by the board’s vote.

The Kansas City, Kansas, school board has voted to follow Kelly’s order and will delay in-person classes for the first nine weeks of the school year. Students will instead receive remote instruction..

In Wichita, the state’s largest school district, school board member Ben Blankley says despite the state‎ board’s vote, he’ll still support pushing back the start of the school year.

YouTube video of Kansas State Board meeting:

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