The importance of wearing masks, staying 6-feet apart and tailoring ways for local school districts to meet those goals dominated the Special Superintendents’ Webcast earlier this week.
According to a news release, superintendents questioned whether students who refuse to wear masks or have their temperature checked could be refused bus transportation.
Kentucky Department of Education officials urged using persuasion by providing masks, explaining their importance and contacting parents, rather than punitive measures.
“We know it’s going to be temporary. It’s not something we’ll have to do the rest of our lives, but it’s something we’ve got to do right now,” Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said.
If students still won’t comply, districts “may need to look for alternate means,” including disciplinary action, KDE Interim General Counsel Todd Allen said. But that should be a last resort.
Brown and Dr. Connie Gayle White, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, compared mask guidelines to dress codes.
White said teachers, school staff and superintendents should be role models for getting people used to wearing masks and other personal protective equipment.
People with respiratory problems and special needs students are the ones most likely to need a medical exemption from wearing a mask, but their situations are so diverse they should be dealt with case by case, White said.
Brown said flexibility may come from scheduling some classes in larger rooms or creating break periods when students can be separated so masks can be taken off for a while, he said.
“Districts are going to have to weigh the pros and cons of all those scenarios,” Brown said.
Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney said school districts will be allocated 12,500 no-touch thermometers. They can be picked up at regional distribution centers at no charge.
The number each district receives will be “loosely based” on its number of schools and buses.
Reimbursement for more thermometers and other protective equipment may be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On June 25, KDE released guidance on transporting students for the upcoming year. School traffic patterns are likely to change substantially as many parents choose to drive children to school or have them walk instead of taking the bus, said Kay Kennedy of KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations.
Schools may need to make many adjustments, such as separating bell times so groups of students won’t mix and unloading buses in stages, said Elisa Hanley, also with the Office of Finance and Operations. If students do ride the bus, they generally will need to wear masks, undergo temperature screenings and use assigned seats to maintain distance.
“The number of students on the bus is dependent on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community,” Hanley said.
Students in first grade or above need to wear masks on a bus unless they have a medical waiver, Hanley said. Districts should ask parents to get their children used to wearing masks now so they will be comfortable with it when they need to wear one for school.
Riders should be given hand sanitizer from a dispenser as they board the bus, Hanley said, and buses should be sanitized at the end of each route.