LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As schools across Kentucky conclude the 2019-2020 academic year, coronavirus concerns are affecting plans for the fall semester.
In April, Gov. Andy Beshear asked Kentucky schools to stay closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continue non-traditional instruction. However, on Friday, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) provided “initial guidance” for schools and districts planning a safe reopening.
In the 16-page document, schools are encouraged to prepare for a number of possibilities including a non-traditional start date if the risk for contracting COVID-19 remains high. Schools could potentially open as early as July or as late as October. A traditional opening is also proposed if the risk of students contracting COVID-19 is found to be consistent throughout the school year.
In a YouTube briefing Friday, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Polio said Kentucky’s largest school district is already planning for these scenarios.
“We are working right now on scenarios as to what coming back to school would look like. We got guidance from the KDE that said we could start early, could be on time [or] could start late. And we’re looking at all of those various scenarios and building plans," Pollio said. “And then obviously focusing on how we’re going to social distance and make sure that our staff and students are healthy and remain healthy as that is our first priority.”
When developing a reopening plan, school districts are encouraged to develop a team of stakeholders to ensure all appropriate considerations are taken into account.
Before opening, schools would be asked to complete the following list of proposed guidelines:
- Identify a Healthy at Work Officer
- Establish a Healthy at Work Communications Plan
- Educate and Train Employees
- Establish Contract Tracing Protocols
- Establish Calendar, Enrollment and Attendance Guidelines
Once the fall semester started, schools would be asked to prepare for sudden closures or extended periods of remote learning.
Under the guidance, alternative schedules are being considered including one model with rotating student groups in A-B days, AM/PM patterns or alternating weeks. A synchronous opt-in model is also being proposed where parents could choose either in person or virtual learning for their students. A hybrid model and a fully online model are listed in the KDE guidance as well.
Speaking in Frankfort, Gov. Beshear voiced his support for as many in-person class days as possible.
“I want to get our kids back to school. We know that distance learning isn’t the same, we know that our kids fall behind when they do it, we know as parents how hard it is to step in,” Beshear said.
The KDE guidance also comes with a framework of guiding questions and risk factors to be considered for health and safety, teaching quality, special education and school operations. It is expected to evolve as new information becomes available over the summer.