Scott County Schools will reopen in the fall with in-person classes, but students with safety concerns will have virtual and on-paper options, said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, in her capacity as Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and Acting Education Commissioner Kevin Brown, unveiled the “Healthy at School” initiative, which will allow Kentucky’s public schools to open for the 2020-2021 school year. It includes social distancing, wearing marks, sanitation and environmental factors, screening and school exceptions and contact tracing.
That briefing provided clarity for two specific issues: masks and taking temperature readings, Hub said.
“There is no question Scott County will have in-person classes in the fall,” he said. “Our first priority has always been safety. Safety of our students, our teachers, our support staff, parents, visitors and others. As long we believe we can keep people safe we will open.”
What will be different is the school system will likely approve only 161 instructional days, instead of the typical 172-day instructional period
’This gives us the opportunity for 11 other days we may need to call off school because of a COVID-19 spike,” he said.
Hub praised a bill sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, that allowed schools to start later to help the economy, but included the abbreviated school schedule.
“That bill is a big help,” he said.
The school system would use Non-Traditional Instructional days, if necessary, but the length of time spent in NTI instruction drained teachers and students alike.
“We also approved an unlimited use of NTI days, but in my opinion, NTI has just about run its course,” Hub said.
A key to whether school can remain in session this fall is how serious the community takes the COVID-19 precautions promoted by health officials.
“Our community has always been very supportive of our schools, but if they don’t wear masks and take other precautions, I don’t know what will happen,” Hub said. “But our community has always been supportive.”
The first day of school will likely be Aug. 26, Hub said.
“We always like to start off with a three-day week,” Hub said. “Wearing masks three days the first week will probably be enough.”
State officials unveiled the “Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools” which covers kindergarten through 12th-grade instruction across the state.
“It is critical for everyone to do their part as good neighbors and good Americans to follow this guidance to protect our children, teachers and school personnel, and stop coronavirus outbreaks that would spread the disease, cost us more Kentuckians and further damage our economy,” Beshear stated.
These safety expectations were written with input from the Education Continuation Task Force as well as the Governor’s Office, Department for Public Health, Kentucky Department of Education, the Cabinet of Education and Workforce Development and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Throughout this process, stakeholders from all areas of education have been engaged to provide input and expertise.
Brown stressed the importance of wearing masks as well as social distancing, to keep schools open and students, teachers and staff members safe. He noted that we’ve already lost people key to our education community to COVID-19.
“A good thing to remember in our schools, and in our society in general, is that when you move, you mask,” Brown said. As for social distancing, “This is going to result in recommended smaller class sizes. Spacing students out in hallways, districts will be asked to put tape every six feet, just like you see in our shops and restaurants.”
Coleman said the state was working to ensure waivers will be granted to schools needing to use Non-Traditional Instruction days.
She also announced that through Expanded Care, schools can take advantage of federal funding that covers Medicaid-eligible students for services including nursing, audiology, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, interpreters, mobility and mental health.
“It is our duty to protect every child, but it is also our duty to protect every adult and every family member of the folks in those school buildings,” she said. “The Governor, the Commissioner and I have come together to help provide the flexibility that is needed by schools to meet these unique circumstances.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.