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Gov. Laura Kelly announces back-to-school COVID-19 vaccination plan for Kansas

Titus Wu
Topeka Capital-Journal
Gov. Laura Kelly points to a chart explaining the expected vaccine availability status when asked about when certain people will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during a news briefing at the Statehouse. Kelly recently announced a new back-to-school vaccination plan.

Gov. Laura Kelly in a news conference Wednesday announced a plan to get all K-12 schools across Kansas back up and open, after many shifted to remote or hybrid learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know that everyone is anxious to return to normal ... Most of all, we want our kids back in the classroom," she said. "We all know that virtual school is not ideal ... We know that prolonged remote learning is not sustainable."

Her news comes as in Kansas and across the nation parents and school officials have had passionate debates over when to have students back in classrooms and for how long.

Under the plan, counties will receive additional shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses earmarked for teachers and staff. The plan will be a coordination between the state health department, local health departments and school districts.

The ultimate goal is to get every adult working in K-12 settings vaccinated so schools can open.

More research is still needed before it can be determined if children can take the vaccine.

Free rapid-result testing supplies also will be made available to schools, the governor said.

This plan is able to happen because "Kansas is receiving substantially more doses than we had been," Kelly said. Four weeks ago, the state received about 45,000 per week. Last week, it was 90,000, and the governor said the White House will soon send 115,000 doses. 

Finer details and the number of doses to be given through this program is still in the works. 

"We're not going to have enough to do every teacher, every staff person, next week so whatever number it is that we need to reach, we will structure that distribution (to) that need over time," Kelly said.

This comes as Republicans have been clamoring against remote learning. One filed bill would encourage families in remote-learning public schools to use state funds to attend private schools. Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, also had filed a bill requiring all schools to return to in-person learning by March 26.

"Well I hope we can get some of them back sooner than that," the governor said, noting some counties, such as Shawnee County, already have prioritized K-12 teachers. "I'm enthusiastic to get this program up, running and over so we can get schools open full time, all the time, for our kids."