Students, parents tell state board of education online classes aren’t working

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas State Board of Education met for its monthly meeting on Tuesday. They discussed how schools are operating during the pandemic and heard from members of the public.

Some people spoke to members saying online classes aren’t working and students are suffering because of it.

One of the speakers was Jill Ackerman. She is a family physician in the Kansas City area who came to the board meeting to say that guidance on when classes should be online or in-person needs to change.

“At this point, updating recommendations makes sense because we do have new data,” Ackerman said.

She was joined by a handful of other parents and students that spoke to the board. Ackerman said that remote learning isn’t the best option for most students and it is making teaching more difficult for educators. She pointed to numbers saying the health risk isn’t high enough to keep students out of the classroom.

“Since our schools are not super spreaders, and with aggressive mitigation control measures, we can keep the spread to a minimum as it pertains to in-school learning,” Ackerman said.

Education leaders said it’s too early for all students to go back to full-time in-person classes. They are hearing from medical experts that say some areas should stay online.

“No one wants to be in a hybrid or remote, there’s not anyone who wants to be in that state,” said Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson. “What we need though, is every community that wants kids to be in school, like I do, social distance, mask, and do those things, and we have a lot of counties that are not doing that. So if we want kids in school, we have to adhere to those guidelines so that our rates go down and our hospitals aren’t being overrun with cases as they are now.”

The board is instead considering increasing flexibility for schools during the pandemic. The state requires a minimum number of school hours, but the amount can be changed at a later date if needed.

The board may start relaxing requirements, delaying assessments, and pushing back deadlines to give teachers and school leaders a way to cope with all the change.

“There will be a lot of things that we talk about that will not be a waiver of 1,116 hours, but it will be something that we might do to take off of the plate of school districts so that they can focus on student learning,” Watson said. “We want kids back in school and we want them learning, we have to keep them safe.”

The flexibility of requirements could be decided next month. When it comes to changes in how schools conduct learning, that’s left up to local officials.

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