Kansas continuous learning task force stresses short instruction periods, limited screentime for at-home learning

About half a million Kansas K-12 students will be at home until the start of the next school year in August. Photo credit Nomin Ujiyediin/Kansas News Service.

By Nomin Ujiyediin

LAWRENCE, Kansas — With public and private school buildings closed until August, education officials want students to limit their screen time and spend less than three hours a day learning.

A report released Thursday directs districts to spend five days assessing students’ technology needs, building lesson plans and telling parents what to expect. Districts are required to submit a plan to the state for doing so by early April.

On Tuesday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly ordered all schools in the state closed until the start of the next academic year to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The report says that teachers, parents and students will need to be flexible and adjust to a new style of instruction. And it emphasizes that screen time and learning often aren’t that same thing.

“Continuous learning is learning any time, anywhere,” said Dyane Smokorowski, an Andover teacher and a member of the task force that created the report over three days. “That can be done outside, that can be done in your living room, that can be done on a front porch.”

Schools will no longer be expected to administer standardized tests. In fact, they won’t be able to because federal guidelines say they can’t be administered remotely.

“We are not going to be doing state assessments unless something would change dramatically in (Kelly’s school-closing) executive order,” said education commissioner Randy Watson. “It would be impossible for it to be done … from a confidentiality perspective.”

Proms and graduations will be canceled unless they meet county health departments for group gatherings.

Districts may allow students to return to school to pick up belongings, but only in small groups. Teachers may also meet in school buildings to plan lessons or meet with families.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Limiting daily instruction time, based on the child’s age level. The times range from 30 minutes a day for pre-K students, up to 3 hours for 6th-12th grade students.
  • Teachers having designated online office hours and using screen sharing and recording to teach lessons.
  • Schools sending devices home with students if they are available, checking with local internet service providers about access, and encouraging families to use mobile devices as hotspots.
  • Teachers using online platforms to collect student work and assess progress.
  • Districts providing lists of resources for food, transportation, clothing and other needs to parents.
  • Learning through a combination of videos, handouts, writing and recreation time.

Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @NominUJ.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.