Kansas orders all K-12 schools to close for the rest of the school year
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered all of the state's K-12 schools to close for the remainder of the school year, moving instruction online as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Kelly and the state Department of Education held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss developments and recommendations related to COVID-19.
"This difficult decision comes comes after close consultation with the education professionals here today who represent local school boards, school administrators and local teachers," the governor said.
CLARIFICATION: Governor Kelly didn't cancel school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. She closed school buildings. Schools will be working to implement Continuous Learning plans for all students.— KS Dept of Education (@ksdehq) March 17, 2020
School superintendents have been briefed on the situation, and a a task force is currently working on lesson plans and delivery methods. Plans could involve online and small group instruction.
Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson said one of his first priorities will be to make sure high school seniors graduate on time.
"This situation has evolved rapidly and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," Gov. Kelly said. "For weeks, my team of seasoned emergency management professionals has worked around the clock to adjust to rapidly evolving CDC guidance."
School administration offices and support facilities can remain open for limited purposes and consultation with state and local authorities.
"Once they are thoroughly sanitized, some buildings may be reopened for small groups of school personnel charged with implementing a plan for continuous learning," Kelly said.
Kelly's announcement comes as several school districts already had extended spring breaks and colleges and universities had moved to online instruction for the rest of the school year.Kansas has at least 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues to spread in the state, officials said.
Effective March 23, Gov. Kelly directed state employees to stay home on administrative leave to minimize additional risk of exposure to the virus for two weeks.
"The break will allow agencies to assess their essential functions to ensure that they can safely continue to serve the core needs of Kansans. The directive only applies to executive branch agencies under jurisdiction of the governor. It does not include agencies such as the Office of the Attorney General, the Insurance Department the State Treasurer or the Secretary of State’s office. The order does not apply to legislative or judicial branch employees.
As the state hustles to control the virus, the House has approved a bill to give laid-off workers another 10 weeks of unemployment benefits.
After the measure cleared a committee Tuesday morning, the chamber canceled all of its remaining committee meetings until further notice.
Also Tuesday, the Kansas Lottery Commission announced it will close the four state-owned casinos until at least March 30. Gov. Kelly has banned all gatherings of more than 50 people until May 1.
Below is a response from Wichita Public Schools:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.