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Kansas Governor Says Masks Are Non-Negotiable in Schools and Pleads for Delaying Classes

 A classroom at Jardine Elementary in Topeka in 2019. (Photo by Chris Neal for the Kansas News Service)

Story by Brian Grimmett
 

WICHITA, Kansas — Students, teachers and staff members at K-12 schools in Kansas will wear masks, use hand sanitizer once an hour, socially distance and have their temperatures taken daily. That’s according to a new statewide mandate from Gov. Laura Kelly, who says she does not need approval to institute the COVID-19 safety regulations.

She also plans to delay all instruction and extracurricular activities — including sports — until Sept. 8, after Labor Day. This second executive order must be voted on by the state Board of Education, which will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Kelly said she is committed to protecting Kansans “regardless of the political pushback” that already has happened in some communities regarding delaying the 2020-21 school year.

“I’m asking each state Board of Education member to put politics aside and think about our children, their parents, their teachers and the survival of our Main Street businesses,” she said in a news conference Monday.

More than 300 Kansans have died from COVID-19, and the number of cases has spiked in the last month to almost 24,000 — with more than 2,600 since July 13 alone.

Last week, the Board of Education issued a hefty document full of recommendations on reopening schools safely, prioritizing in-person elementary-school education and noting that it’s likely teachers, staff, students and family may need to quarantine for 14 days when a school has a positive coronavirus case.

There are exceptions in Kelly’s order regarding safety protocols. Masks won’t be required during eating, “activities that cannot be safely conducted with a mask or other facial covering,” people with medical conditions and other reasons. Also, the order says that the six-foot social distancing guideline doesn’t apply during in-person instruction in classrooms when masks or other face coverings are being worn.

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