Kansas pushes for return to K-12 schools, more COVID-19 vaccines for teachers and staff

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Governor Laura Kelly announced her “Back to School” vaccine plan to get students back in the classroom on Wednesday.

Kelly’s plan would earmark additional vaccine doses for K-12 teachers and staff and increased testing supplies to help with a safe return to school.

“The emphasis on vaccinating K-12 teachers and staff, the free testing supplies, along with continued adherence to other mitigation strategies will allow us to bring students safely back to in-person learning,” Gov. Kelly said.

However, the governor said this won’t happen in one week. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working with the Kansas Department of Education to set up a schedule and figure out what’s needed. The governor said this would help the state restructure its vaccine distribution to allocate the additional doses.

The governor said while closing schools was a much-needed step last March, online learning is not sustainable, with some medical professionals in the state pointing to a drastic increase in mental health concerns during the pandemic, especially during winter months.

“It’s very hard for people to go outside,” said Dr. Gregory Nawalanic, a psychologist with the University of Kansas Health System. “Combine that with the isolative behavior of the pandemic, and you have a really nice template for depression.”

The governor’s plan comes as other state leaders are also pushing for students to return to school.

Senate President Ty Masterson introduced the “Back to School Act,” a bill focused on getting kids back in the classroom by March 26. Masterson pointed to mental health as a concern.

The governor said she agrees, pushing for a quick and safe return for students.

“Well, I hope we can get some of them back sooner than that,” Gov. Kelly said. “We all know that this has not been a good situation.”

The governor also said more vaccines are on the way to Kansas. With an increase in federal shipments, the state is now expecting to receive about 115,000 doses per week. The state received about 90,000 doses per week in past shipments.

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