Baldwin City, Eudora school districts provide more information on possible closures

UPDATED STORY: Douglas County health department prohibits large gatherings, orders 2-week closure of schools, rec centers, libraries

A pair of area school districts are contemplating how to hold classes as coronavirus fears mount, and one of them is telling parents to begin thinking now about how they would handle a prolonged closing of school.

“It is important that families and staff prepare for schools to be closed at some point for extended periods of time (10 + school days,)” the Baldwin City school district said Friday in a Facebook post addressed to the parents, students, faculty and staff of the district, which is just south of Lawrence.

The Baldwin district, however, has not made any firm decisions about how to proceed with school in the coming days. The district currently is on spring break, but it is scheduled to resume classes on Monday. The district’s school board plans to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at the Baldwin Elementary School to discuss school closure issues, according to a special meeting notice provided to the Journal-World.

The Eudora school district, which is just east of Lawrence, has more time to consider its options. The district is on spring break all of next week. Eudora Supt. Steve Splichal said in an email to Eudora school families that “at this point, we plan to return to business as usual following spring break.”

Splichal, though, said plans could change at any time if the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health Department or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issue a closure order. State department of education leaders made clear on Thursday that state and local health officials have the authority to order schools closed. While local districts have the ability to decide not to have school on particular days, local districts are being urged to let local and state health officials guide such decisions.

“If a decision were to be made that cancelling classes is essential by KDHE or the Douglas County Health Department, it would likely be for a period of 14 calendar days,” Splichal said in his email. Based on the information provided to us late Thursday, any closure applied to schools would also apply to the local recreation department and public libraries.”

The Baldwin City school district notice also echoed that information. Its notice said the “Douglas County Health Department has advised that once a local case has been identified, schools, libraries and indoor park and recreation institutions will be required to be closed 14 days.”

The future of high school athletics for the spring season also is unclear. Splichal said Eudora teams would be allowed to continue to practice, but no indoor practices would be allowed during the spring break week. All school buildings will undergo a deep cleaning process during the spring break week, he said.

Splichal said the district was still awaiting a ruling from the Kansas State High School Activities Association regarding spring activities and events.

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