Kansas schools receive guidance for upcoming school year

Columbus Schools Superintendent tells us about their plans
Empty Classroom In Columbus

COLUMBUS, Kan. – The upcoming school year for Columbus students Hannah and Remi will look a lot like it did at the end of the spring. Learning from home, but for the entire year.

“I have some autoimmune issues, so I’m on autoimmune suppressants. So, if my kids come home with the germs, and they give them to me, that could be bad,” says Brooke Vanhouten, Hannah and Remi’s mom.

The Kansas State Department of Education has designated three learning methods that parents like Vanhouten can choose from for the coming school year in their recent guidance to local school districts. Traditional in-person learning, online virtual learning, or a mixture of both.

“We just have to see the numbers that want to do that. But we may dedicate teachers specifically to teaching remote learning,” says Columbus Superintendent Brian Smith.

The state department of education has approved a full thousand-page plan that focuses on ways that school districts can keep students, teachers and the community safe — while also making sure that students are learning and hitting state education standards.

The state department of education will be providing more specific guidance to school districts — but it’s currently unclear what school districts will be required to do. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly plans to layout those requirements in an executive order that will be issued on Monday (July 20th).

School has also been delayed in Kansas until after Labor Day. Governor Kelly on Wednesday announced plans to issue an executive order delaying the beginning of school until after the Labor Day holiday. (Read more here: https://www.koamnewsnow.com/school-to-be-delayed-until-after-labor-day-in-kansas/)

In Columbus, their start date was going to be August 27th. Superintendent Brian Smith says they hadn’t made any concrete plans until the state board of education approved their guidance.

“Last spring, we were told on a Saturday you need to stay in school. And on Sunday, we were told you need to close your schools. That’s how quickly it changes,” says Smith. “So for us to plan too much and tell people what we’re going to do in June doesn’t make much sense when things could be much different.”

Smith says that the school board has discussed different things that they could do. Those include holding some classes outside to make social distancing easier, offering virtual classes for students, and putting UV lighting in the ductwork to clean the air inside the building.

“We’ve gotta get those kids back. We’ve gotta get the teachers back. They’re coming in the buildings, and we’ve gotta make darn sure that we do it as safely as possible,” says Smith.

Columbus parent Kim perry has a daughter going into the sixth grade, and plans to have her attend traditional classes. She thinks that it will be a good thing for students to get back in the classroom.

“I hate that this has become kind of their new normal. And I think it’s a good thing for the kids and the community to try and get back to what’s familiar,” says Perry.

But Vanhouten says no amount of cleaning or other measures would convener her to send her kids back to campus.

“Using the same school equipment, books, everything. And what, you know, what about water fountains? Are we gonna eliminate those? I mean, all these little things that we don’t normally think about. So, if we have the option to remote educate, then we’re gonna choose that,” says Vanhouten.