This week, Kentucky officials released the #HealthyAtSchool guidelines for school reopenings this fall. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman were quick to point out that flexibility among the finer details will be key, and that what works in small rural districts may not work in a large urban district like Jefferson County. Instead, the #HealthyAtSchool guidelines offer an outline of basic expectations that must be followed in every Kentucky school district and provide families with a vision of what social distancing will look like in schools.
As you may have guessed, the meat and potatoes of the plan boils down to rearranged classrooms and face coverings. Class sizes will have to be smaller, with seats all facing one direction and spread out as best as possible. All students over the age of five will be asked to wear face coverings any time they are moving in hallways or common areas, on buses, and in classrooms where distancing isn’t possible. While Commissioner Brown noted that students’ masks could come down in classrooms where students are seated at least six feet apart, the large class sizes characteristic of so many schools may make this an impossibility. If you’re going to be in any way physically involved at a Kentucky school this fall, you’re basically going to be asked to mask up.
This also means that schools will likely be expected to have additional PPE on-hand for students who forget their masks at home or don’t have access to one. And in case you were wondering, there’s already been some discussion of what will happen if students flat-out refuse to wear a face covering.
“They can stay home and the instruction can be delivered digitally if that’s what the district decides to do,” Lt. Gov. Coleman said, drawing comparisons to dress code violations. Just like other specifics of school reopenings, the state will leave the handling of mask issues up to the school districts themselves.
But classroom arrangements and face coverings aren’t the be-all and end-all of Kentucky’s #HealthyAtSchool plan. School administrators will be asked to place tape along the hallway, cafeteria, and gym floors to ensure that distancing can occur throughout the building. In the event that students can’t practice social distancing in cafeterias, students may be asked to eat lunch in their classrooms or other spread-out areas.
Teachers and students can expect to see more routine deep cleanings of surfaces throughout the school as well as an increased focus on basic hygiene. Commissioner Brown also explained that temperature monitoring will be mandatory, meaning that students with a temperature over 100.4 will be sent home.
Finally, one of the last major pieces of the #HealthyAtSchool plan is contact tracing, which will prove critical should a COVID-19 outbreak occur at a Kentucky school. Teachers and bus drivers must be prepared to hand over seating charts if a positive case does show up, allowing local health departments to more quickly trace possible contacts. School districts and local health departments are already working closely together, but it’s likely those partnerships will continue to grow closer as the 2020-2021 school year unfolds.
A lot of gray areas remain, but Kentucky’s #HealthyAtSchool plan at least offers some guidance to school districts as they anxiously await the upcoming year. You can view the full press release from the Kentucky Department of Education here.
What questions and concerns do you have?
Photo by Kelly Sikkema, CC-Licensed.