Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced at a news conference Tuesday in Topeka that she was issuing an executive order to close all state-accredited schools — including public, private and parochial campuses, affecting almost 500,000 students — through the spring semester.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” Kelly said. “It came after close consultation with the education professionals who represent local school boards, school administrators and local teachers. These unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day and we must respond accordingly.”
Kelly had earlier assigned the state Department of Education to convene experts to develop a comprehensive education plan for students for the rest of the year, but it is not known what it will look like for students who can’t take online classes and for those with special needs.
Nearly 41.5 million of the nearly 50.8 million public school students in the country have now seen their schools close in 39 states and the District of Columbia, according to an Education Week tally.
States around the country are struggling to figure out how they are going to educate students who are at home, many of whom do not have Internet access or necessary technology. Another complexity is that federal law requires that districts ensure equitable education for students with special needs if alternative forms of education are being provided for other students.
School closures have been coming fast and furious.
It was Thursday when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) became the first state leader to close schools. At the time, it was for three weeks, but he has since said it could be for much longer, even through the end of the school year.
On Sunday in Texas, where some but not all districts have closed, Education Commissioner Mike Morath told superintendents that some students may not return to school for the rest of the academic year.
Then on Monday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who initially resisted closing campuses, said it was possible schools in his city could be closed the rest of the school year — and maybe longer.
On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at a news conference that nearly all public schools in the state have closed and that they are all likely to stay closed the rest of the academic year.
“I would plan and assume it is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” he said, KPBS reported.
Newsom, a father of four, said when he went home Monday, his 6-year-old daughter, Brooklynn, was crying about schools being closed and being unable to see her friends.
“I told her, ‘Honey, I don’t think the schools are going to open again,’” Newsom said. “If I can tell my daughter that and not tell your daughter … then I’m not being honest and true to the people of the state of California. Boy, I hope I’m wrong, but I believe that to be the case.”