TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Kansas Senate on Wednesday approved a proposal from its top Republican to require the state’s public school districts to offer in-person classes to all students by March 26.

Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, is pushing the measure with the number of new COVID-19 cases lower than they have been in months. Masterson and other Republicans argue that many students don’t fare well academically or emotionally with online learning and need to get back into classrooms.

The Senate’s 26-12 vote sends the measure to the House.

Some Democrats argued that the bill is an attack on local control of public K-12 schools.

The measure also could be largely symbolic. According to State Department of Education data, only five local districts were not planning to have a majority of their students returning to in-person classes by March 26.

GOP lawmakers criticized Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for closing K-12 school buildings in March 2020 until the end of the spring semester. A bill approved Monday by the Senate would allow only local schools boards to cancel in-person classes.

Legislators also are considering proposals to rewrite the state’s emergency management laws, with the House set to debate a measure Wednesday.

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