FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky students will be back in classrooms this fall, but it won't be the same as years past.
Governor Andy Beshear (D) said, "It is critical for everyone to do their part as good neighbors and good Americans to follow this guidance to protect our children, teachers and school personnel, and stop coronavirus outbreaks that would spread the disease, cost us more Kentuckians and further damage our economy."
Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown laid out the state's "Healthy at School" plan which consists of the expectations and strategies all 172 school districts will follow.
Every school will receive guidance in the following areas:
- Social distancing
- Cloth face coverings, School Health Policies, and Personal Protective Equipment
- Screening and school exclusion
- Sanitation and environmental factors
- Contact tracing
Brown calls this the "flagship document" for schools; a health care document that identifies safety expectations for schools.
When school starts, there will need to be six feet of space for social distancing in classrooms, but Brown was quick to say there will be exceptions. When six-feet of distancing can't be done, other measures will need to happen.
If your child doesn't have a face mask now, you will want to make sure they have them. Brown says he realizes this is controversial, but for the safety of students and everyone in the school, it is necessary. Masks for kindergarteners will be optional. If your child rides a bus, they must have a mask, if they are walking around the school; the must wear a mask.
Brown said, "If you move, you mask."
Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman said, "We send our kids to school with shoes and with shirts because they are the norm," and masks are going to be the new normal.
Schools will also be concerned with screening. Temperature checks will be the norm for every student. Parents will also be permitted to say their child is fever-free. No child will be allowed in school if they have a temperature of 100.4, have a cough, are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.
The sanitation guidance will give instructions to all the schools on how both schools and buses will be cleaned and sanitized. The final practice in the document coming out Wednesday is contact tracing. Schools and local health departments will work together. If a student or anyone in the school is infected with COVID-19, tracing will begin to determine every person the infected person has had contact with to prevent further spread of the virus.
While Brown called this a "flagship document," it is not the only guidance that will be given to schools and parents. More guidelines will be coming out beginning Thursday with more on transportation followed by workplace health and safety guidelines next Monday and guidelines for facilities and logistics will be released sometime in July.
Since May 15, KDE has released weekly guidance documents to superintendents and districts to help school leaders plan for the opening of the 2020-2021 year.
Coleman, who is also the Secretary of Education and Workforce Development for the state, stressed with the new guidelines each district would have flexibility in how they were implemented.
Coleman said,“It is our duty to protect every child, but it is also our duty to protect every adult and every family member of the folks in those school buildings. The Governor, the Commissioner and I have come together to help provide the flexibility that is needed by schools to meet these unique circumstances.”
Along with the new guidelines, Coleman said she signed a memo that will help teachers and districts with flexibility.
First, she has temporarily suspended the 10-day limit for non-traditional instruction (NTI). There will now be an unlimited number of NTI days that schools can use in case they see a spike in cases or other reasons as the district deems necessary.
Secondly, She also announced that through Expanded Care, schools can take advantage of federal funding that covers Medicaid-eligible students for services including nursing, audiology, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, interpreters, mobility and mental health.
Coleman said she has also sent a letter to other governors and lieutenant governors asking that they join Kentucky in asking for additional CARES funding for state budgets.
She said, "Education funding must change."
Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is the largest district in the state. Commuications and Community Relations spokesperson Renee Murphy said, “Every school district in America is faced with a challenging set of options for what the start of school will look like in the fall. We are appreciative of the guidelines given today and thankful for the continued support of Interim Commissioner Kevin Brown and the Kentucky Department of Education. Our team at Jefferson County Public Schools will review the information released today to come up with innovative ideas to maximize learning in a safe and healthy environment for students and staff.”
Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk also responded to the governor's announcement saying the district is working closely with KDE and the governor's office to ensure a safe return in the fall. Caulk said while their plans are not 100 percent finished, there are some things they are certain of.
Caulk said the district will not start school in July. He said districts were asked to develop plans for an early July start, a normal August start, and a delayed start after Labor Day. Caulk says Fayette County will definitely not start in July. He said the district is committed to having in-person instruction and will do everything possible to make face-to-face school a reality.
Caulk added the district is working to develop distance learning options for families looking for alternatives to on-campus instruction because of health considerations and in case NTI is implemented again. Finally he said working with families is critical to the districts success. The district sent out a survey last week asking for parents input on NTI. The survey will close at midnight on Sunday, June 28. You can take it at www.fcps.net/survey.
- Kentucky Department for Public Health’s COVID-19 webpage
- KDE’s COVID-19 webpage
- COVID-19 Hotline (800) 722-5725