Although there are still more questions than answers when it comes to COVID-19, Kentucky students, parents and educators are beginning to get a clearer picture regarding their return to the classroom this fall. Kentucky officials released their plan for reopening the state’s schools Wednesday evening, when Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin Brown released a document that identifies the safety expectations for schools.
Brown says the goal is to get schools back open and remain open for the school year. Although the state is imposing a strict set of guidelines, there are some key decisions that will be left up to the individual school districts. For some, that could mean distance (or digital) learning.
“I believe that we have the best teachers, administrators, and staff in the country,” said Brown, according to LEX18. “Seeing what I saw in our school districts, all 172 of them, what they did last semester [during the initial outbreak], what they did and how they did it tells me that they will be doing this and they will be meeting these expectations because they know that’s the best thing for their students.”
Brown laid out some of the guidelines during Gov. Andy Beshear’s Wednesday press conference. These guidelines include:
- Social distancing: There will be a 6 feet social distancing requirement in classrooms. However, there are some leniency and exceptions. If districts are unable to maintain at least 6 feet of distancing in the classroom because it would otherwise reduce the capacity of the classroom, students can be seated closer together, but masks will be required during instruction. Smaller classroom sizes will be recommended as well as limited assemblies. There will be markers in the hallway to indicate distancing and classrooms may be reconfigured.
- Cloth face coverings, school health policies, and personal protective equipment: If a student is moving, they need to have a mask on. If they are less than 6 feet away from someone or on a school bus, they also need to have a mask or have their temperature checked. If parents can assure to the school district that their child does not have a temperature higher than 100.4, they can get on the bus. However, all students will need to be screened for a temperature check when at school. Exceptions may be made for children with medical conditions who may be unable to wear a mask.
- Screening and school exclusion: There will be screening requirements where a student needs to stay home or be sent home. They include a temperature greater than 100.4, a cough, vomiting/diarrhea, a rash, or exposure to a COVID-19 case within 48 hours.
- Sanitation and environmental factors: School districts will need to clean the schools and buses. There will be posters given to school districts that will be on display on school buildings for grade school and high school students.
- Contact tracing: Districts will be cooperating with local health departments in case there is a COVID-19 case in a particular school. Contract tracers will need to look at bus manifests, where the exposed person was seated on the bus, and determine whether the exposed person inadvertently exposed someone in the classroom or on the bus.
- Non-Traditional Instruction options: Normally, a school district is only allowed 10 “NTI” days. That restriction has been lifted in the case an outbreak does occur within a school or district.
The state is willing to be as accommodating as possible.
“We are willing to also allow flexibilities to our school districts that will support them in being able to implement these safety expectations for our students,” said Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, who is also an educator and current secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. “It is not fair to just put new expectations on hundreds of thousands of children that come to the same school building every day, without also allowing for our schools to be able to innovate and to be able to change the way they do things in the name of health and safety.”