On Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that school buildings across the state must be closed for the duration of this school year for the purpose of general student and staff attendance. However, learning will continue for Kansas students. A 25-member task force comprised of many of the state’s top educators continues working to develop plans for Continuous Learning. The task force will deliver their recommendations to Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson by Wednesday evening.

Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa) issued the following joint statement: 

For the past week House Republicans have been working to ensure stability for schools, courts and core services in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. While hoping that it would not be necessary, preparations were made to assist with the scenario our state now confronts. The announcement this afternoon regarding the closure of Kansas schools for the remainder of the academic year is one of those scenarios for which we have prepared and taken action. 

Earlier today the House passed legislation, with input from the State Board of Education, to ensure the Board has the flexibility it needs to manage K-12 school closures. Our schools are committed to innovating and finding ways to continue delivering education through a variety of alternative means. Additionally, we applaud the work being done by teachers, administrators, and other school staff as they adjust to additional duties beyond their normal activities. Most crucial among these are the efforts being made by many school districts to provide meals to students in a safe manner. 

Additionally, the House has taken the following steps:

• Passed a Disaster Emergency declaration to ensure flexibility in addressing the COVID-19 global pandemic.

• Passed legislation with input from the judicial branch to ensure that measures are taken to keep the public safe, protect constitutional rights and make sure no citizen loses the benefit of our court system if there is an interruption in judicial operations.

• Passed a comprehensive transportation plan that will help Kansas rebound from a temporary economic downturn and excel in the coming months and years.

• Passed legislation extending unemployment benefits to assist Kansans as they navigate these difficult times. 

• Cancelled non-essential committee meetings and allowed office assistants to go home.

House conferees continue to stand ready to meet with their Senate counterparts to prepare a base budget that will provide stability to the core functions of government. It is now our goal to adjourn the 2020 legislative session as soon as practical. 

The disruptions inherent in dealing with these present challenges are not and will not be easy. Some Kansans will face illness, others economic hardship and for some mere inconvenience. No matter what any one of us may face, we all will help each other through. Throughout our state’s history we have faced hardship, natural disasters and economic downturns. But we have always pulled together, endured sacrifices and emerged stronger for them. This time will be no different.