Wichita Public Schools

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — A standard school bus can hold as many as 72 students, as long as you pack them in three to a bench. That just isn’t possible during a pandemic.

And according to Wichita Public Schools Transportation Director Lisa Riveros, following the 6-foot social distancing recommendation would “reduce it down to as many as 10, 11, 12 passengers.”

Count busing among the numerous challenges Kansas school districts are facing as they head back to school this week. Some can’t find enough drivers. Others aren’t in the position to add more buses or routes. That’s left districts looking to do everything they can to reduce the number of kids they have to transport.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW/File photo

For the first time since March, at least some Wichita Public Schools students returned to the classroom Tuesday.

But concerns about spreading the coronavirus means school will look a lot different this year. KMUW education reporter Stephan Bisaha spoke with Morning Edition host Jonathan Huber about some of the biggest changes.

How school will look different this year

All middle school and high school students will start the school year learning remotely. But don’t expect virtual classes to be treated like they were in the spring.

Stephan Bisaha / KMUW

Students at Wichita Public Schools will be able to participate in extracurricular activities after all this fall.

The school board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to allow fall sports and other activities to go forward, a reversal of an earlier decision to cancel both for the first nine weeks of the school year because of the coronavirus.

Stephan Bisaha / KMUW File Photo

Wichita’s middle and high school students should brace for at least nine more weeks of virtual learning.

On Thursday, the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education voted 5 to 2 to start the school year with remote-only classes for the district’s middle and high schools.

"It's the right thing to do for the kids and the city," said board president Sheril Logan. 

School activities will also be remote only, meaning there will be no fall sports competition. The school board will revaluate the restrictions nine weeks after school starts.

Stephan Bisaha / KMUW/File photo

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.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Wichita Public Schools says it will begin discussions this month about possibly changing the North High mascot.

Kansas school districts are trying to budget for some pretty big unknowns right now.

No one knows if it will even be safe to have students in schools in August, and everyone’s worried about the $650 million hole COVID-19 blew in the state’s budget. Administrators are worried that if the state’s economy doesn’t rebound soon, they’ll have to make deep cuts in the middle of next school year.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

Seniors who attend Wichita Public Schools asked for a traditional cap and gown ceremony, and Superintendent Alicia Thompson said the district will make it happen.

Thompson announced Friday that in-person graduation ceremonies will be held July 25 and 26 at Intrust Bank and Century II.

The academic year was cut short when Gov. Laura Kelly closed schools in March because of the pandemic. For the Class of 2020, that meant several big events were canceled, including graduation.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

Wichita Public Schools' Kids Eat Free program is now providing free breakfasts along with lunches to feed children while schools remain closed.

The program began last week and continues for the rest of the academic year. Children 18 years and younger can pick up meals to-go at 18 sites around Wichita.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3/File photo

Wichita is the latest — and largest — public school district in Kansas to announce plans to sue the popular vaping company Juul Labs.