Kentucky officials detail guidance for reopening schools including requiring masks and unlimited days for at-home learning

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and members of his administration released a document Thursday that will serve as a guide for local school districts as they develop plans to reopen schools in the fall.

As school’s reopen, the local districts will develop their own plans for what the next school year will look like for their students and families. However, the Beshear administration has developed a “flagship document” that identifies safety expectations and best practices to be used by the districts.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Acting Education Commissioner Kevin Brown said the items in the plan are things that Kentucky has been discussing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the best practices are areas state officials would love to see implemented but there will be some flexibility.

Guidance in the document includes:

  • Social distancing
    • 6 feet social distancing requirements in classrooms but there will be some flexibility if districts are unable to meet this requirement. If a school is unable to put desks 6 feet apart, students will be able to sit closer together but masks will be required.
    • Brown noted this requirement will result in things like recommended smaller class sizes and tape in hallways to keep people further apart
  • Masks and PPE
    • Brown said the need for masks could be one of the most controversial items but “if a student is moving” or less than 6 feet away from other students on a bus or in the classroom then they need to have a mask on.
    • As for buses, the state is allowing buses to be fully loaded as long as the district meets conditions including masks or temperature checks getting on the bus or parental assurance nothing over 100.4. but when they get to school all students will need to have temperature check done
  • Health screenings
    • All students will have to have a temperature check when they arrive at the school.
    • Cough, high temperature, and other indicators will result in a student being sent home.
  • Sanitation/environmental factors
  • Contact tracing
    • Local health departments will be working with schools to figure out where a child was sitting on the bus or in the classroom to see who could have been exposed.

Jacqueline Coleman, Kentucky’s lt. governor and Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet secretary, said the items laid out in the document focus on ensuring the safety of not only students but also those who work in the schools and families in Kentucky communities and noted the importance of flexibility for local districts to innovate.

A memorandum was approved Wednesday, Coleman said, that temporarily suspends statutes like the 10 day limit on NTI days to grant an unlimited number of those days to districts in the event they have to close schools because of a spike as well as suspends the average daily attendance model that deals with school funding, so it doesn’t adversely impact their funding if students have to learn from home as a result of the pandemic.

Additionally, Coleman stated she is writing a letter to the other education secretaries across the country to sign on to ask the federal government for additional CARES funding as well as changes to the way education funding is done at the federal level.

More guidance for school reopening will be coming from the state level in coming weeks.

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