Kansas education task force issues guidelines for school districts

TOPEKA, KAN. (KWCH) The Kansas Board of Education issued guidance Thursday afternoon on how school districts should proceed for the remaining school year.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order on Tuesday ordering all schools closed for the remainder of the year.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson said that does not mean all buildings will be closed, but learning as we know it will change.

“I want to be crystal clear. We did NOT shut down schools in Kansas. We are limiting activity in schools in Kansas. We have shut down this WEEK in order to clean,” said Watson who hosted a press conference using Zoom to avoid having a crowd of people gathered for the announcement.

Dr. Watson convened a task force to develop recommendations on Continuous Learning. The task force released a 76-page resource for teachers and administrators – so they know how to move forward.

It includes a list of essential questions, sample professional development plans to help guide them, grade level and content guidelines, technology guidelines and tips for teaching and learning in a virtual environment.

Taskforce members emphasized they wanted to keep it simple and leave it to schools to decide what’s best for their kids.

They said the plans for each district will end up looking a little different based on students’ needs – whether they lean more toward online or small group learning. K-12 schools may conduct LIMITED in-person instruction in small groups as long as they comply with all directives regarding social distancing, hygiene, etc. to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We wanted to recognize that every school district is very unique in their student population and very unique in the resources that we have available,” said Cindy Couchman, a member of the Continuous Learning Task Force and Assistant Superintendent for Buhler USD 313.

The taskforce wanted to give “grace” to both teachers and students during the big change.

Tabatha Rosproy, a preschool teacher for Winfield Public School, said special education teachers are specially equipped to handle the changes.

“Accommodations and modifications are second nature to them. This continuous learning experience is going to stretch those skills in new ways but special education staff will be a great resource for other teachers as we navigate these previously uncharted waters,” said Rosproy.

Later Thursday, a team of superintendents and principals from across the state will provide guidance on how to implement the plan. It will be sent to administrators with guidelines on how to unpack this, how to group staffs, etc.

KSDE plans to launch a Google site on Thursday which will share resources for educators.

Dr. Watson also told reporters that standardized tests will be canceled this year.