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Governor Laura Kelly signed two executive orders concerning Kansas schools this week. One for the delaying the start of classes until after Labor Day, the other for staff and students wearing masks, using sanitizer and other safety procedures. The Kansas Department of Education voted Wednesday on the order and in a tie vote of 5-5, members rejected the order delaying the start of classes. The tied vote put the decision of when and how to open in the hands of each school district.

“The cases of COVID-19 in Kansas are at an all-time high and continue to rise,” Kelly said in a press release after the ruling was announced. “Our decisions must be informed by public health experts not politics. This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk. I will continue to work with our school districts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our children and ask every school district to delay the start of school.”

Rina Neal, Geary County Unified School District 475 school board president said the district has been working on plans to open on August 17 and continued with those plans even after the governor’s announcement.

“On Monday, we discussed the white board plan for USD 475,” she said. “In that plan that was discussed, we talked about operations procedures, but first we talked about actually school opening back up. And what that looks like in the process with that plan. And so, we have all been waiting. The governor made her announcement, but we knew we needed to wait for Kansas Department of Education to make their announcement.”

She said in the coming days meetings will be had to get further guidance from the state and from the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

“At this time, we are still in debate about whether to go ahead and go with the governor’s order or what we had originally planned which is August 17,” Neal said. “We have never really wavered from that date.”

She said there will be a school board meeting on July 28th and there, board members will discuss further on what will be done in the district. But as of right now, there is nothing fully decided, she said.

“I know that’s not what people want to hear but we always say that we wait to make decisions and announcements, based on the governor, KSDE, the state and our local health department,” she said. “I understand the anxiety that it creates, and people just need to know, have something set in stone so they can make the best decision for themselves and their families.

“I understand needing to have information but I’d rather to have information that is complete and accurate and instead of going back and forth,” she said.

She said that the goals of the school board and district are to ensure the safe opening of the schools and to provide the highest quality education that they can.

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