Wabaunsee County schools close due to COVID-19 precautions

Laurel Barber | @Lawl_e_20

Wabaunsee students will be out of school for at least two more weeks.

Wabaunsee County Health Administrator Ray Finley has made the decision to close both school districts in Wabaunsee County for two weeks, until March 30, including all activities and athletic events, the district announced Saturday afternoon. The precautions are part of a nation-wide attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Surrounding high schools, including Manhattan, Junction City and Topeka Schools have closed for precautionary reasons. Many colleges including K-State, KU, Emporia State University, Fort Hays University and Johnson County Community College have extended spring break and will switch in-person classes to online for the foreseeable future. 

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans. The virus causes respiratory illness similar to the flu, with symptoms such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. 

In his message to citizens, Finley explained his decision to shut schools. We understand that we do not have any COVID-19 cases in our county and surrounding area. But with the travel of families and students during spring break, we must take every precaution for students, staff and the community.”

Superintendent Brad Starnes addressed some concerns in an email Saturday afternoon. The closure causes potential issues for the length of the school year. Options including adding minutes to the day will be discussed in the coming days. The Kansas Department of Education may also waive some requirements for affected districts this year.

Starnes urged teachers to work hard to plan to meet educational standards for students, even though they may lose time in the classroom.

Starnes also said the district would explore continuing to provide meals for some students, but they need to determine a safe way to provide them to students who rely on them.

As for activities, the Kansas State High School Activities Association canceled the final two days of the state basketball tournament. Regional Music Festivals scheduled for March 28 and April 4 have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. A decision about the spring sport seasons has not yet been made, although practices will not take place in USD 329 while schools are closed.

Finley acknowledged that the closure was a difficult choice. “The decision was made in the best interest and safety of the students, staff, families and community. This was not an easy decision to make, knowing that it will create some hardships to some families. But will benefit all families, along with the community as a whole, in the long run.”

The Charger will continue to publish online throughout the closure, including coverage of Monday’s school board meeting and other issues affecting students.

What questions do you have about the school closings? How is it affecting your family?

Let us know at whscharger@gmail.com.

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