Stephan Bisaha

Stephan Bisaha is a former NPR Kroc Fellow. Along with producing Weekend Edition, Stephan has reported on national stories for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as other NPR programs. He provided data analysis for an investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs and reported on topics ranging from Emojis to mattresses.

Stephan has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and concentrated in data journalism. He currently covers education for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. 

WICHITA, Kansas — Spring break is canceled.

Public universities in Kansas made the call early in the fall as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. They reasoned that during a pandemic it’s just not a good idea to give students a week to spend in South Beach, or even just travel to see family.

Yet Kansas State University students said they need at least some time off because of another health crisis — the damage to their mental health posed by a semester without a pause. K-State agreed and scheduled a “wellness day” for the spring.

WICHITA, Kansas — The way kids in Kansas learn to read is in for a major rewrite.

Teachers will soon ditch their time-worn old memorize-and-context-clues methods. In their place, they’ll work with state teacher colleges on new styles meant to accommodate dyslexic students and other children who struggle with books. For instance, they’ll train kids to break down words and to methodically drill through English’s tricky rules.

WICHITA, Kansas — Between concerns about schools staying open and the challenges of learning remotely, teachers and students are haunted by another question that goes beyond 2020: Will snow days disappear forever?

Editor's Note: On Nov. 13, Emporia State University announced that it will provide free tests to students that want one before traveling. 

WICHITA, Kansas — In just two weeks, thousands of college students in Kansas will board planes and hop into cars daydreaming of sweet potatoes and turkey legs.

Most of those students won’t return to campus for the rest of the semester. To cut the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the majority of universities in Kansas will have students finish the fall semester online.

Kansas community colleges should be having a good year.

No crowded, germy dorms. Most of their students don’t need to travel. Plus, community colleges are cheaper and normally thrive in a bad economy.

Instead, they actually lost students. Enrollment fell more than 14% this fall. That’s causing the experts who track the industry to wonder about past assumptions.

WICHITA, Kansas — Amid a surge of coronavirus cases across rural Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly provided details on her new statewide testing plan Wednesday, adding 400,000 more by the end of the year.

That's nearly double the amount of tests available now, with the goal of reaching a total of 1 million tests. The extra capacity is expected to go to schools and high-risk populations, like those living and working at nursing homes.

WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas’ teacher shortage finally shows signs of shrinking.

But districts still can’t find enough educators to keep schools running under coronavirus safety demands.

WICHITA, Kansas — Less than a week into the new school year, the warning came: The school district’s COVID-19 learning plan expected too much from teachers.

“It’s unsustainable,” Greg Jones, a representative for the Kansas National Education Association, told the Wichita school board. “We don’t think that things can continue as they are.”

Wichita State University held a memorial service at Cessna Stadium on Friday honoring both the victims and survivors of a plane crash 50 years ago.

On Oct. 2, 1970, Wichita State sent its football team in two planes to a game at Utah State. One plane crashed near Silver Plume, Colorado. The crash killed 31 passengers, including 14 players.

Listen: The Pieces That Remain: Remembering The Wichita State Plane Crash

Zach Zimmer’s roommates at Benedictine College had grown accustomed to seeing him stressed.

But on the first Saturday in September, the college junior got them worried. He was running a temperature of 101.5.

“We knew immediately at that moment,” Zimmer said, “that this could be something more serious.”

WICHITA, Kansas — Universities don’t just sell the chance at an education. The whole college experience has been a key tool for keeping students around.

Wichita State University budgeted more than $1 million dollars on ways for students to have fun on campus last year.

WICHITA, Kansas — Some students at public universities in Kansas have, or will yet get, the coronavirus.

Football players training over the summer have tested positive. A frat house in Manhattan has an outbreak. And some dorm students elsewhere in the state have gone from just-unpacked to quarantined.

Schools spent the summer preparing. Desks have been moved six feet apart. In-person classes are getting cut back. Masks must be worn.

WICHITA, Kansas — Online schooling got off to a rocky start in Kansas, with teachers quickly piecing together virtual offerings. Parents complained about needing to be constantly involved while the work failed to engage their students.

Now faced with sending their children back to a physical classroom this fall, Kansas parents are trying to enroll kids in the state’s virtual schools. Lawrence’s received more than three times as many applicants compared to this time last year, and Wichita Public Schools' Education Imagine Academy filled up in a week.

WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas teachers that don’t feel safe going back to crowded hallways as schools reopen could take medical leave or teach online. But at the many districts that don’t have those options, teachers eye another choice: quitting.

Stephan Bisaha / Kansas News Service

 

What happens when the coronavirus comes between your senior year and dreams of a state championship?

WICHITA, Kansas — Kansas’ elementary, middle and high schools can reopen for in-person instruction in August, despite Gov. Laura Kelly’s push to delay the 2020-21 school year until after Labor Day.

The Kansas State Board of Education voted 5-5 Wednesday — the tie being enough to reject Kelly’s executive order that would have delayed the start by three weeks. Her order, which affected instruction and all extracurriculars, needed the board’s approval.

WICHITA, Kansas — Jennifer Mathes kept her expectations for the spring low.

A sudden, pandemic-driven shift from classrooms to online instruction was bound to throw the Blue Valley school district a curve. That would be a loss for the quality of teaching she could expect for her daughter.

But for the fall?

The Kansas Board of Regents approved tuition hikes for four state universities, while the University of Kansas and Kansas State University held their tuition flat.

KU announced its plans not to raise tuition last month, saying the school needs to stay competitive. But it also said it wasn't right to raise tuition as students and their families deal with lost jobs and income caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

K-State gave similar reasons.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kansas — Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and 30 other schools owe at least part of their existence to land taken from Kansas’ indigenous people.

The Kansas Board of Regents met with Wichita State University President Jay Golden on Wednesday, but took no action over the furor caused by Golden removing a prerecorded message by Ivanka Trump from WSU Tech’s commencement ceremony.

The Regents spent more than four hours in executive session with Golden. They then adjourned and directed people watching the virtual meeting to a statement.

The statement read:

WICHITA, Kansas — Educators say there was a silver lining when Kansas schools and campuses had to shut down because of the coronavirus: It was a chance to learn how to do remote learning right.

Now with college finals submitted and most K-12 schools in summer vacation mode, educators are reflecting on those two months of online teaching, especially knowing that some universities will have to do it again come fall (Wichita State plans online-only instruction after Thanksgiving).

Here are six things that Kansas professors and teachers say they’ve learned outside of the physical classroom.

WICHITA, Kansas — The summer slide. That’s the annual learning loss that happens when students spend three months away from school.

Now researchers warn about a “COVID slide.”

Students will have spent five months out of the classroom, shuttered because of the pandemic, when they return in August.

WICHITA, Kansas — It’s a simple, tempting pitch: hands-on training tailored for specific, high-demand jobs.

It led thousands of students to enroll in Kansas technical colleges. But COVID-19 and a collapsing aviation industry undid that promise.

WICHITA, Kansas — Day cares, at a premium in Kansas in non-pandemic times, are essential businesses that can stay open while the state is under a stay-at-home order. Overall, they’re seeing a drop in the number of kids who show up, but want to be there for health care workers.

“The nurses. The doctors. Everybody on the frontlines,” Phillipsburg Child Care Center program director Brooke Feik said. “They need somewhere to take their kiddos.”

At least six female athletes at the University of Kansas reported they experienced unwanted touching from a massage therapist who was recently charged with a child sex crime, the school said Tuesday. 

Investigators also discovered that an athletic trainer knew of “unwarranted and unwanted touching” by Shawn O’Brien, but the school said in an email to staff and students that the trainer did not “appropriately report the conduct, as it is required by the university.”

  

TOPEKA, Kansas — Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday ordered all of the state’s schools closed for the remainder of the academic year, taking her most dramatic action yet to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas.

The governor’s decision came while all the state’s schools were shut down either for spring break or to slow the spread of the new coronavirus — some under orders from county health departments. In particular, the largest school systems in Kansas had either moved to online instruction or stretched out those spring breaks.

Corinne Boyer

Three Kansas universities announced Monday that they'll be holding classes online for the rest of the semester.

Due to the coronavirus, Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Fort Hays State University will move all classes online when they return from spring break on March 30th. The University of Kansas followed suit on Tuesday.

WICHITA, Kansas — The good news for Kansas public colleges: 1,000 more Latino students will be enrolled a decade from now, enough to fill the seats left empty by fewer white students.

The bad news? The state predicts fewer students will earn a degree or certification in 2029, judging by Kansas’ poor track record in graduating Latino students.

WICHITA, Kansas — Faculty at state colleges in Kansas find themselves armed with fresh ammunition in their ongoing plea for more pay.

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas — Nikki Heiman was excited to learn that the state was sending a job counselor to work with her son, Trenton, a high school student with Down syndrome.

But that excitement fizzled when Heiman learned the specialist could only meet with Trenton once a month — and only for 15 minutes. That’s all the time the counselor could squeeze into her schedule while handling a large caseload that forces her to shuttle between multiple counties.

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