School buildings officially close due to COVID-19

Gov. Kelly orders school buildings to close, classes to move online

Meredith Comas, Print Editor-in-Chief

Governor Laura Kelly has officially ordered schools to close their buildings in response to COVID-19, commonly referred to as the Coronavirus. 

“We realized that closing classrooms and moving to a continuous learning plan cannot begin to replicate Kansas’ outstanding education structure, as we know it,” Kelly said. “But continuous learning will provide methods and strategies that will provide for them to build a bridge back to the world-class learning our students benefit from today. This will take clearer shape as the task force recommendations are released. But today’s actions will give educators and parents a sense of what’s comings o they can begin to adapt and make plans as needed.”

According to Gov. Kelly’s press conference earlier this afternoon, “administrative offices and support facilities may remain open for limited purposes in 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.” 

“The reality of this pandemic is that it cannot be controlled if statewide school buildings returned to normal operations or if they respond inconsistently within our local communities,” Kelly said. “Unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day. And we must respond accordingly.”

As of now, the Kansas Department of Education is encouraging school boards to find ways to move schooling online. According to Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson during this afternoon press conference announcing the closures, a task force will be meeting tomorrow to work toward “developing learning environments” for a continuous learning plan. 

Watson also addressed questions about current seniors’ graduation, saying that the task force would be looking for ways to ensure the alternative learning plan for seniors met graduation requirements. 

According to Mark Farr, president of Kansas National Education Association, school employees at this time will continue to be paid. However, according to USD 383 communications officer Michelle Jones, this was not included in the email schools received ahead of time, so USD 383 does not yet know what this will like for the Manhattan-Ogden district. 

“We understand the financial impact a school closure may have on our staff members,” Jones said in a district statement. “We are committed to working together as a community to support one another throughout these unprecedented times and communication will remain a top priority.”

USD 383 has continued to provide breakfast and lunches to students throughout the COVID-19 closure that extended spring break by two weeks and will discuss how they will meet these continuing needs throughout the full building closures.