3 large Kansas school districts to open after Labor Day

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three of Kansas' largest school districts have voted not to resume classes until after Labor Day because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wichita district's Board of Education voted Thursday to delay school until after the holiday, and also approved two online alternatives for families who are leery of returning their students to school too soon.

On Wednesday, the Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County announced their decisions to postpone the school year, he same day the Kansas State Board of Education rejected Gov. Laura Kelly’s order that all districts in the state delay reopening.

Officials in the districts cited a surge in COVID-19 cases and said they were concerned that opening before Labor Day would endanger the health of students, faculty and staff. The three districts together had 100,000 students during the 2019-20 school year, about 19% of the state's 519,000 public K-12 school pupils.

“We are currently not doing well in Johnson County. … Our case numbers are abysmal for June and July,” Shelby Rebeck, Shawnee Mission’s health services coordinator said at a board meeting Wednesday. She said the county health department would offer guidance on when schools should return, The Kansas City Star reported.

As of Thursday morning, Johnson County had reported 4,161 confirmed coronavirus cases, an increase of 352 since Monday. The county has had 96 deaths from the disease. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

In Kansas City, Kansas, the school board voted Tuesday to delay in-person classes for the first nine weeks of the school year, with students spending that time getting online instruction instead. The Topeka School District has also announced plans to open schools remotely on Sept. 9.

The Wichita district’s two alternative methods to in-person classes will be MySchool Remote, a 100% online curriculum that would essentially duplicate the in-person curriculum with teacher instruction, and Education Imagine Academy, a full-time virtual school that will allow students to work at their own pace using recorded instructional material, with teachers available to help if needed.

Meanwhile, two Kansas State University graduates are suing the university, saying they did not get the education they paid for after classes went online in March because of the pandemic.

The class-action lawsuit filed by Noah Plank and John Garfolo, both of Salina, is similar to lawsuits filed against universities throughout the country, including the University of Kansas, after campuses closed in the spring.

The lawsuit claims the university has not offered refunds of tuition or fees even though 58% of the semester was conducted virtually.

Kansas State officials said they would not comment on ongoing litigation.

Tuition and fees vary depending on a student’s course of study. The lawsuit, which was filed July 7 in federal court in Kansas, claims the class action covers thousands of students who are owed a total of more than $5 million.

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