In-person classes have come to an abrupt end for students across Kansas.
Gov. Laura Kelly announced that she has ordered school buildings K-12 to be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, citing fears about the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 and the "unprecedented emergency" it presents.
"This was not an easy decision to make," Kelly said in a statement issued Tuesday.
"It came after close consultation with the education professionals who represent local school boards, school administrators and local teachers," she explained. "These unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day and we must respond accordingly."
Kelly's executive order makes Kansas the first state to shut down its public schools for the remainder of the school year — an extraordinary step that other states so far have been reluctant to take, despite a raft of temporary class closures across the U.S.
Kansas' Department of Education says it intends to keep classes going remotely, however; officials there say they've assembled a task force to develop plans for alternatives that do not include in-person classes.
All told, three-quarters of all K-12 students in the U.S. — including those in Michigan, Massachusetts and Kentucky — have seen their schools shuttered for a span of several weeks, though officials there hope students will still be able to return before summer sets in. It's worth noting that the school year in Kansas begins and ends several weeks earlier than it does in most other states.
Governors in Ohio and California, however, suggested that it might be just a matter of time before their states follow Kansas' lead. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has stopped short of making it official, but at a news conference Tuesday, he told reporters that "it's unlikely that many of these schools — few if any — will open before the summer break."
"This is a very sobering thing to say," Newsom added. "I don't want to mislead you."