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Education

Kansas Schools Close Due To Coronavirus, Kansas City Metro Schools Closed Through April 5

Empty desks sit in rows and columns in an empty classroom
Feliphe Schiarolli
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The 15 school districts that touch Kansas City, Missouri, agreed to close until April 3 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Updated, 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Gov. Laura Kelly has closed every school in Kansas for the remainder of the school year in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We understand that canceling classes and moving to a continuous learning platform cannot replicate” what happens in Kansas schools, Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A day earlier, most Kansas City area school districts announced they would close until at least April 5.

Missouri education officials have not yet said if schools will reopen for the 2019-20 school year.

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said he hoped that online learning could provide a “bridge” until it is safe to reopen schools. Parents, educators and school district employees should wait for guidance from their local district.

Olathe Superintendent John Allison said the six Johnson County, Kansas, school districts had worked with the county health department to make a difficult decision.

“We know that the decision to close schools was not something that was done arbitrarily but with a great deal of forethought and insight and also the expertise of those who understand COVID-19,” Allison said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

All of the districts within the city limits of Kansas City – Kansas City, Belton, Blue Springs, Center, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Independence, Kearney, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, North Kansas City, Park Hill, Platte County, Raytown and Smithville – have announced closures through the first week of April.

Kenny Southwick, who heads a coalition of districts on the Missouri side of the metro, said schools would remain closed until Mayor Quinton Lucas lifts his state of emergency.

In a statement, Southwick said that the school superintendents worked with Lucas to reach that decision.

“Our superintendents appreciated the Mayor’s leadership and agreed with him that this was a difficult decision in light of the problems this will create for children and families in our community,” Southwick said, “but the districts acted together in order to save lives.”

Charter and private schools in Kansas City, Missouri, have also closed, as well as neighboring Jackson County school districts Fort Osage, Grain Valley and Raymore Peculiar.

Superintendents on both sides of the state line said more information would be forthcoming on digital learning, food service and child care, but that those decisions would depend on districts.

"We know that in addition to education, our schools provide vital support to our communities and that this closure will have a major impact on our families," North Kansas City Schools Superintendent Dan Clemens said in a statement. "Please know that we are doing all we possibly can to make decisions in the best interest of our students through this time."

Some districts, like Shawnee Mission, sent devices home with older students in case schools couldn’t reopen after spring break. Allison, the Olathe superintendent, said that he didn’t think any district had enough devices to send home with students in all grades.

Districts are also concerned about equity of access to digital learning because not all students’ families have broadband access at home.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
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