Reopening schools was the main topic of Gov. Andy Beshear’s COVID-19 press conference Wednesday.
Kevin Brown, interim Commissioner of Education, spoke about the release of safety expectations and best practices guidelines for Kentucky schools.
Many of them are the same as ones used for healthy at work.
They include social distancing, cloth face coverings, school health policies and personal protective equipment, screening and school exclusion, sanitation and environmental factors and contact tracing.
“There will be a six-feet social distancing requirement in our classrooms,” Brown said. “However, due to the work and cooperation of public health, there is some leniency there and some exceptions.”
One exception will be if a district is unable to have social distancing in a classroom students may sit closer together, but masks will be required.
“If you’re seated closer than six feet, you have to have a mask on during instruction,” Brown said. “If you’re in a classroom and have that six-feet social distancing around your desk, your mask can come down while you’re seated.
“However, one of our superintendents said, one thing to remember in our schools, and our society in general, is when you move, you mask. That’s going to be the rule in our schools.”
Districts will be asked to put tape down every six feet in hallways. Assemblies will be limited, and any assembly must follow Beshear’s recommendations on public gatherings.
Masks play a big role in the reopening.
“This may, unfortunately, be one of the most controversial issues,” Brown said. “If a student is moving, they need to have mask on, if there’s less than six feet, they need to have mask on, if they’re on a bus, they need to have a mask on.”
Brown said districts may fully load buses if some conditions are met. One is students wearing masks, and another is a temperature check upon entry to the bus or parental assurance to the school district that the child, when getting on bus, doesn’t have temperature over 100.4 degrees.
However, when students arrive at school, there will be a temperature check.
Upcoming guidance and when it will be released is pupil transportation, Thursday; workplace health and safety, Monday; and facilities and logistics and career and tech, exceptional learners and performance-based instruction in July.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, addressed the press conference.
“It is not fair to 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 innovate and be able to change the way they do things in the name of health and safety,” she said.
Coleman announced a temporary suspension on the 10-day limit of nontraditional instruction (NTI) days, so the Kentucky Board of Education could grant the authority of unlimited NTI days for the 2020-2021 school year.
This would give school districts the flexibility to use NTI days as needed.
A statute stating average daily attendance be utilized in calculating state funding for school districts has been suspended for the 2020-2021 school year, and every school district will have the opportunity for schools to participate in the expanded care program.
Expanded care allows schools to bill for services provided to Medicaid eligible children who fall outside of IEP (individualized education plan).
These services include nursing, occupational therapy, audiology, speech therapy, physical therapy, interpreters, mobility and mental health.