School districts work to reopen Kansas schools

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — While most parents may be ready for their children to get back to school, according to a new survey, most school leaders have concerns. The School Superintendent’s Association surveyed superintendents from across the United States and found that 94% of those surveyed aren’t sure if or when their schools will reopen.

The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) has put together a group of nearly 700 volunteers, including educators, parents and community members, to create recommendations for Kansas school districts. That guidance includes best cleaning practices, how to hold in-person classes, how to have recess, among other recommendations. But, in the end, the decision of when and how to reopen schools falls to the superintendents, school boards and county health officials.

Dr. Scott McWilliams is the Superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn school district in Topeka. He says his district is doing everything they can to open schools in the fall. That includes having teachers meet regularly throughout the summer to develop their own guidelines, that meet the needs of their classrooms while still keeping kids safe.

“Not knowing exactly what COVID will bring for this upcoming school year, we have to be prepared for everything,” said McWilliams. “So we’re coming up with plans A, B, C, D to be best prepared.”

Mark Tallman, Associate Executive Director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, says other school districts are doing the same. He adds that it is important for students, parents and staff be flexible.

“We might start school or we might start sports in a certain way and find out it isn’t going to work or it’s going to have to be suspended,” explained Tallman. “Those are the things that I know are going to be terribly frustrating.”

McWilliams is asking for patience from Kansas parents right now.

“Because things change so quickly, we’re really not in a position that we can publicize too much yet because it’s still June and a lot of things will change by the time August rolls around,” said McWilliams. “We’re all doing the work. We’re getting our stuff planned.”

McWilliams says he is in regular communication with other superintendents, and they are all working to get a plan in place. He adds that parents will be notified of all guidelines prior to the start of the school year.

The Department of Education will be sending out their recommendations to school districts in July; again these are just recommendations.

“As we start getting, next month, into July, we’re going to start getting in to six weeks, a month until school starting, that’s when we’re really going to have to decide,” said Tallman.

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