TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly has outlined two executive orders Monday, giving families a better idea of what going back to school will look like in Kansas.
One will delay the start of school in Kansas until after Labor Day. More than 500,000 students would have to wait three more weeks to head back to class.
“Real leaders confront challenges head on. They don’t sit back silently and wait for the situation to get worse,” Kelly said. “I am taking a stand for what I know is right.”
The order will also affect the start of school activities and athletics. There will be exceptions for students enrolled in dual-credit college classes.
However, the order is subject to the approval of the State Board of Education. The elected, 10-member school board can block Kelly’s plan under a law enacted last month as a compromise between the governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
The board is facing pressure from conservatives to do just that.
Republicans have an 8-2 majority on the state board, and on Friday, seven board members told the Associated Press they did not know how they were going to vote yet.
The state school board is set to meet this Wednesday, and the governor is urging them to vote in favor of her order.
“I am asking each State Board of Education member to put politics aside and think about our children, their parents, their teachers and the survival of our Main Street businesses,” she said.
The second order details Kelly’s plan once students return to classrooms. It is not subject to the school board’s approval, the governor said, and has already been signed.
It would require face masks for all students, teachers and staff in all school buildings.
There are some exceptions, like when eating or doing activities where it’s not safe to wear a mask, or for students with a mental or health condition or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The order also requires six feet of social distancing, except during in-person instruction when masks are worn.
Hand sanitizer is required in every classroom under the order, and all staff and children are expected to sanitize their hands once an hour, Kelly said.
Additionally, everyone entering the building will have their temperature checked every day.
The order’s safety precautions are stricter than guidelines adopted last week by the State Board of Education. Districts were encouraged but not required to adopt the board’s guidelines.
Kelly said the additional three weeks, if approved by the board, will give school districts more time to secure supplies to follow these requirements.
The governor also hopes it will be enough time for cases to go down in Kansas.
On Monday, Kansas health officials announced that eight more people died from COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the state’s total to 307.
Additionally, there have been 1,369 new cases since Friday. The total number of positive cases in Kansas is now 23,334 with 1,497 of those hospitalized.
Kelly argued that the virus is not just affecting urban areas, pointing to Logan, Kansas, a small town of about 500, where there have been four deaths in a week, and Ellis County, where cases have jumped by 30.