KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - Wednesday Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced she will be delaying the start date for schools until after Labor Day. That’s coming Monday in an executive order, along with a second order that will mandate certain safety protocols like distancing, temperature checks and masks.
KCTV5 News has talked a lot about the impact on kids, parents and teachers, but there’s another group many of you might not have thought about. The often-overlooked perspective of grandparents who, by necessity, take the unofficial role of parents.
Claire Ausmus takes her role as childcare provider seriously, utilizing the tiny space outside her KCK trailer to keep her three and 5-year-old grandsons engaged.
“We have our PPE. We have our class work. We have our nature work,” Ausmus said.
Inside, she’s dedicated a large, neat space for playing and learning. But she’s worried about her health if the kids go back to the traditional classroom.
“I want to put a face on the older people because I don’t want to be collateral damage,” Ausmus said.
She says lots of her older neighbors are essential caregivers. Some are in multi-generational households. Others are the sole caregivers, like a neighbor who adopted her 13-year-old twin grandkids.
“She’s got COPD and diabetes,” Ausmus said.
Ausmus is over the age of 65 and has a heart murmur. She says her son abandoned the kids and her daughter-in-law works nights.
“If I don’t take care of them, their mother can’t work and then that’s a whole other situation,” Ausmus said.
So she takes the boys to and from the school bus for pre-school and kindergarten and has them overnight for more than half the week.
“Quit her job and then what? Lose her house? Lose her car? Lose her insurance?” Ausmus questioned.
She is even more concerned for the grandparents who have sole custody.
“You eliminate those grandparents then those kids have nowhere to go but foster care,” Ausmus said.
We don’t know yet the specifics of how KCK or other districts will handle things. They’ve been waiting for the State Board of Education’s guidelines, a document that is 1,100 pages long and approved just Wednesday.
It addresses in-person, hybrid and remote learning options. State Education Commissioner Randy Watson says local districts now face what he calls a, ‘monumental task.’
“Each one of those districts is creating a plan that will be unique to those communities,” Watson said.
“They’re different. They need to have different options available to them. That’s what the Board of Education is providing. What we are providing for them are some guardrails that they have to implement,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said.
In other words, the state’s educational guidelines are flexible, but the health portion will not be.
It’s welcome news to Ausmus, but until there’s widespread, rapid-result testing, she’s nervous about sending her grandkids back and anxious to find out if she has to.
“I know they’re missing stuff. I miss the fact that there’s not soccer games and we didn’t have baseball. I miss the fact that the kids don’t have play dates and they can see their friends. But if we’re dead it really won’t matter, will it?” Ausmus said.
The governor says the three-week delay will give time for districts to gather supplies like thermometers, masks and give the state time to monitor the infection rate, with the hope that it will go down if everyone acts responsibly.