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Wichita Public Schools Pushes Back Reopening Date To After Labor Day

Stephan Bisaha
KMUW/File photo
Wichita Public Schools board member Julie Hedrick at a board meeting in 2019.

Wichita Public Schools voted unanimously on Thursday to delay starting the school year until after Labor Day.

"It behooves us in Wichita to listen to our medical advisors," Wichita Public Schools board member Julie Hedrick said during the meeting.

The decision comes after the State Board of Education rejected Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to push back the start date for all schools in the state.

Kelly wanted to wait for Kansas to come down from its current spike of coronavirus cases and give districts more time to prepare. Board members argued that should be a local decision.

Several school districts have agreed with Kelly that classes should wait. Blue Valley Public Schools, Shawnee Mission and Topeka Public Schools moved their first day of classes to after Labor Day. The Kansas City, Kansas district did the same and will stick to online only classes for the first nine weeks after that.

An exact start date for Wichita Public Schools will be voted on July 30. The school board will also have to decide how to make up for the lost instruction time. Districts that delay will likely have to extend the school calendar into the summer.

Board member Ben Blankley voted to delay reopening to give the district more time to train teachers and for the number of new daily coronavirus cases to drop. 

"We have an opportunity here to bend that curve together as a community," he said. 

The district on Thursday also approved three learning options for parents to choose what's right for their children.

Students can return to in-person classes, which will require masks and daily temperature checks.

The two other options are both online. MySchool Remote will replicate in-person learning as much as possible. Students will enroll in their base school and go online at specific times to learn from teachers over video calls, and have the ability be able to return to their school buildings depending on the state of the pandemic.

The other option would be enrolling in the district's virtual school, Education Imagine Academy. Students would periodically check in with educators, but they would lead most of their own instruction. The academy gives students a much more flexible schedule. Students would be enrolled in the online program for at least a year. After one semester parents can ask for a special transfer to another school.

The school district is asking parents to pick an option as soon as possible so the district has a better idea of how to prepare teachers and staff. 

Wichita Public Schools can still move all classes online if the pandemic gets worse after the school year begins.

Stephan Bisaha reports on education and young adult life for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @stevebisaha.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.