Temperature checks, contact tracing, rigorous hand hygiene, social distancing and face masks – all will be fixtures of learning during the 2020-21 school year set to begin this fall during a virus pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans.
“How does this look when there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of students in a building at one time? ... That is certainly not going to be an easy feat,” Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said Monday during Gov. Andy Beshear’s virus briefing.
Coleman offered an update about the work of a task force aiming to answer that question.
Her remarks followed the release of new state guidance that recommends schools plan for intermittent closures of varying lengths and craft instruction that may be delivered both in-person and remotely, if required.
The guidance, which was issued by the Kentucky Department of Education, recommends districts “remain at a constant state of readiness for sudden school closure.”
The guidance document outlines several types of closures schools should plan for, including short-term closures of one to two days to long-term closures that could span 11 days or longer.
When it comes to what instruction may look like during short-term closures, the state recommends schools use the kind of nontraditional instruction they might implement for snow days. In the meantime, school facility cleaning and social distancing efforts would take place.
For “mid-term closures” spanning three to 10 days, and for long-term closures, instruction might more closely mimic the remote learning that took place in the spring after schools closed in mid-March.
Public health guidelines would impose certain considerations for how schools should collect students’ work and distribute meals and student technology.
The state guidance also recommends designing instruction that can be delivered both in-person and modified for remote delivery if the situation requires. It also endorses allowing students to take home classroom devices, such as school-issued Chromebooks, each evening to avoid being caught off-guard by sudden school closures.
Speaking during the briefing, Coleman also shared updates from a meeting of Kentucky’s Education Continuation Task Force on Monday.
During that meeting, the group discussed public health considerations for reopening schools, including widespread use of masks, social distancing, temperature checks, hand-sanitizing and surface sanitizing and contact tracing.
Implementing these guidelines will largely fall on local school districts in partnership with their public health department, Coleman said, adding the implementation “will look different in different places. Not every school district is the same.”
“We are working to empower the local community leaders to take these safety expectations and make the best of this situation,” she said.
Coleman added it will be “imperative” for communities to model best practices for children. That includes wearing masks or face coverings in public.
Beshear also said school districts should be prepared for potential virus outbreaks, but he suggested disruptions could be more precise than widespread school closures.
“I believe it will depend on the size of the outbreak. ... The smallest level could be potentially a class, though potentially a school, hopefully not a school district,” he said. “We will be able to be surgical and targeted with our recommendations on that.”
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.