As state officials issue safety guidelines, many remain concerned with local schools reopening

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas State Board of Education is wading through some of the 1,100 pages of safety guidance local schools will be asked to use.

Some local health care professionals are concerned now is not the right time to send students and teachers back.

While most classrooms remain closed during the final weeks of summer break, school districts across Kansas and Missouri are in overdrive, preparing for education in a pandemic.

“We really want to take this to the next level and ensure academic rigor, blended with social emotional support and then equity and access for all students,” said Brad Neuenswander, Kansas deputy commissioner of learning services.

Highlighted in the Kansas guidelines:

  • Students 6th grade and up and all school staff should wear masks
  • Schools should enforce social distancing
  • Frequent hand cleaning
  • Daily temperature screenings if possible

But the state recognizes individual districts will have to do what makes sense for them, based on how COVID-19 cases are trending and with individual family needs.

“Keep people safe, give options, give multiple options and be flexible. Come in and out of those environments as you go forward,” said Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas education commissioner.

The state board knows even with every plan and precaution and place, many families just won’t be ready for a traditional return to school.

“We now have hundreds and hundreds of new cases across our state and to send our children back into that is like playing Russian roulette with our children. I’m not willing to do that. I’m not willing to put my child in that situation,” said Amy Heithoff-Dominguez, parent and master nurse.

Heithoff-Dominguez said her college and high school kids will do school online this fall.

CDC guidelines initially suggest local communities go two full weeks without a new case, before sending kids back to school. Since that hasn’t happened, Heithoff-Dominguez said it’s hard to imagine — even with rigorous cleaning and trying to keep kids spread apart — that schools won’t experience big coronavirus outbreaks when school resumes.

“One death is too many. A death of a student or death of a teacher is one too many. And I just am very concerned about how all this is going to pan out,” Heithoff-Dominguez said.

Individual Kansas districts are expected to begin announcing their return to school plans later this week after Gov. Laura Kelly rolls out formal guidance Wednesday.

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