State offers guidance for reopening schools amid pandemic

Temperature checks before school, physical distancing in classrooms, contact tracing to limit outbreaks and a general requirement that students wear masks – all will be expectations for schools hoping to reopen in the fall during the coronavirus crisis.

On Wednesday, the Kentucky Department for Public Health released its highly anticipated Healthy at School guidance document. During Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus briefing in Frankfort, Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown offered a preview of the guidelines outlined in the “flagship document,” which he described as a mix of expectations and “best practices” that the state would like to see districts adhere to.

“Most of the information in this reopening document, it is not new information. These are things we’ve talked about,” Brown said, alluding to weeks of webcasts and consultations with school district leaders across the state.

Physical distancing and asking families to send their kids to school with masks or face coverings are major elements of the plan aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The document also touches on screening and quarantining of students during an outbreak, sanitation and contact tracing.

“There will be a 6 feet social distancing requirement in our classrooms,” Brown said, noting some exceptions. “If districts are unable to have that 6 feet of distancing in a classroom … students will be able to be seated closer together, but masks will be required.

“So if you’re seated closer than 6 feet, you’ve got to have a mask on during your instruction. If you’re in a classroom, and you have that 6 feet of social distancing around your desk, your mask can come down while you’re seated,” Brown said.

That said, students will be asked to wear masks in other situations, including while riding buses or when they’re between classes.

“When you move, you mask,” Brown said, also suggesting that districts could provide extra masks for students who don’t already have one before boarding school buses that day.

While students and school staff will be expected to wear masks, there are some exceptions. Kindergarteners will not be expected to wear masks, and students who have heart conditions, asthma or other underlying conditions are also exempt.

To encourage widespread mask use, state education and public health officials have asked local community leaders to publicly model the practice for others.

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