Reopening of Kansas City, Kansas, school buildings delayed

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A local health official on Monday ordered public schools in the Kansas City, Kansas, area not to reopen their buildings until after Labor Day because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Allen Greiner, Wyandotte County's chief medical officer, said he issued the order to give the county's four school districts more time to prepare for the reopening of in-person classes with health and safety precautions. The order allows the districts to offer online classes.

“This order was issued to protect our children, young adults, teachers, and those populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Wyandotte County,” Greiner said in a statement.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly issued an order last week to delay the reopening of all classes in both public and private K-12 schools until after Labor Day, but she needed the approval of the Republican-controlled State Board of Education for it to take effect. The board's 5-5 vote blocked Kelly's order, leaving decisions on when to reopen to the state's 286 local school boards.

But Wichita, the district with the most students in Kansas, has delayed the reopening of fall classes until after Labor Day, as have two other large districts, Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission in Johnson County, the state's most populous county, south of Wyandotte County.

The Wyandotte County districts had nearly 34,000 students during the 2019-20 school year, and Greiner's decision means that in-person classes won't start until after Labor day for about 26% of the state's 519,000 public school students.

Greiner's order delays the start of in-person classes until Sept. 8 when Kansas schools typically reopen in mid-August.

His order came as Kansas reported another bad weeklong spike in COVID-19-related deaths and its total number of reported coronavirus cases rose past 26,000.

The state Department of Health and Environment said Kansas had another nine deaths since Friday, increasing the total for the pandemic by 2.8% to 335.

The state had 28 new reported deaths during the seven days ending Monday, an average of 4.0 a day for a new high mark since June 1. The worst seven-day average since the pandemic began was 5.0 for the seven days ending April 13.

The health department said Kansas had an additional 1,063 coronavirus cases since Friday, up 4.2% to 26,172. The number of cases is thought to be far higher because people can be infected without feeling sick and because of a lack of testing, particularly early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the department said the median age for people infected in Kansas is now 37. It peaked at 56 on March 31 and has been declining steadily since.


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