The anticipated “Healthy at Schools” state plans for next school year were announced Wednesday during Gov. Andy Beshear’s 4 p.m. briefing.
Kevin Brown, interim commissioner of Kentucky Department of Education, gave a rough overview of the strategies to reopen schools and have them stay open
Titled “Safety Expectations and Best Practices Guidelines for Kentucky School (K-12),” Brown said this is the “flagship document” for all districts in the state.
“This is a public health crisis and this is the major public health document with the expectations and best practices that our schools needs in order to operate and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Brown said.
The guidelines are broken down into five parts – social distancing; cloth face coverings, school health polices and personal protective equipment; screening and school exclusion; sanitation and environmental factors; and contract tracing.
Social distancing. Brown said six feet of distance should be practiced between individuals at all times. He said schools with space issues can be an exception, as long as everyone is wearing masks. Brown also said schools should tape areas to show six feet distances and have limited assemblies.
Cloth face coverings, school health policies and personal protective equipment. Brown said schools should require students to wear masks on the bus, in the school if there is no social distancing and if they’re moving around.
Screening and school exclusion. Brown said schools need to monitor health of students and send home those who have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees and other health issues that may or may not be related to COVID-19.
Sanitation and environmental factors. Schools need to clean facilities and buses and provide signage to promote good hygiene and practices.
Contact tracing. Districts should cooperate with their local health departments to correctly trace the source of a COVID-19 exposure.
Brown said while the guidelines will be difficult to implement, he said he is confident in the abilities of the schools in Kentucky.
“I believe we have the best teachers, administrators and staff in the country,” Brown said. “What they did last semester and how they did it tells me they’ll be meeting the expectations because they know it’s the best thing for their students.”
Money for schools also will be based on attendance numbers from the 2018-19 school year.
Since May, the department of education has issued seven documents which highlight certain points of guidance for schools. He said KDE will continue to provide these pieces of guidance, with the next one on pupil transportation releasing today.
According to a Hardin County Schools news release, officials began meeting and working with staff for next school year since last school year, and input was shared from parents, staff, teachers and other stakeholders about non-traditional instruction.
“It will take some additional time to merge our work with that of the Kentucky Department of Education,” Hardin County Schools Superintendent Teresa Morgan said. “We also want our local health officials to look at those plans and share their advisement before we formalize them. Again, we appreciate our community’s patience as we move forward. When we are ready to announce those plans, we will do it in extremely efficient ways so everyone knows what will take place.”
As the plan is announced, HCS asks in the release for patience as the district merges its plans with the state’s.
In the release, the district said the items that are for certain are:
• Preparing to offer non-traditional instruction in cases where NTI would be the best health option for the student.
• District principals will be contacting teachers this week to ask them to reach out to parents during the week of July 6. Those conversations will seek parents’ thoughts regarding the upcoming school year.
“Our staff is working diligently to ensure that our buildings are clean and ready for students to return to safe environments,” Morgan said. “We will also work hard to keep them clean and safe. We’ll be using sanitizing materials often and disinfecting classrooms and other common areas with much more frequency.”
Jon Ballard, Elizabethtown Independent School superintendent, said the administration team has been meeting regularly to discuss the anticipated guidelines, most of which they had a good idea of what they would be considering other areas.
He said they will meet again soon to start planning on what the school year will look like, and will first decide on the exact school start date, which will be announced in about a week.
After that, he said they’ll take the next few weeks to hash out possible scenarios. He said one aspect they’ll talk about is face masks.
“I think asking students to wear a mask all day long is a pretty big ask,” Ballard said.
He said they’ll anticipate students maintaining social distance when not moving, and will have to reduce the numbers in the school during the day to ensure distance.
Ballard also said parents will see a survey the first week of July to get feedback on feelings of starting school back up.