Gov. Laura Kelly has stepped up yet again to do what’s right for Kansas.
In deciding to delay the opening of state schools by three weeks, Kelly made clear what other politicians are reluctant to say. The pandemic isn’t over. It’s not even declining. In Kansas, and in many other states, it is actually gathering strength.
That means opening schools next month, without clear buy-in from families and educators across the state, was less than ideal. Some districts, no doubt, would be able to hold in-person classes without incident. But many others, especially those in areas with increasing case numbers, would be hard-pressed to do so.
There are no good options, but delay is perhaps the least bad of them.
Here’s the problem. Schools should be open to meet the educational and emotional needs of kids, and allow parents to work. Everyone agrees that would be the best-case scenario. But if the virus isn’t contained, those schools will continually be opened and closed, opened and closed, as outbreaks wax and wane.
While doctors say that few children become seriously ill with the coronavirus, their teachers or family members could well be at higher risk. Keeping kids at home for distance learning could slow their educational process and social development, and it certainly puts their parents in a bind. But it could also help us all tamp down the virus more quickly.
Other nations have indeed opened schools with minimal problems. But those nations also contained their outbreaks. The United States reopened and let down its guard too quickly.
With all that being said, Kelly may not have notified the state Board of Education before her decision. Board members will be required to sign off on the move, and it’s easy to imagine that the governor will face some measure of resistance. She should have let them know what was coming and why.
The board should approve her decision, however. Kansas has an opportunity over the next two months to dramatically slow the spread. Widespread mask wearing and stringent adherence to social distancing should allow us to do so without resorting to lockdowns.
But it will be up all of us to make sure that happens.
What the governor did this week was ask Kansans a simple question: Do you want schools open this year? If so, you know what you need to do.