On June 24, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the unveiling of the “Healthy at School” Safety Expectations and Best Practices Guidelines for Kentucky Schools (K-12), which was issued by the Kentucky Department for Public Health in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education.
According to a news release from the DPH and KDE, “the official guidance was developed after weeks of discussions between (the departments), with input and feedback from superintendents and other school leaders across the state.”
“(DPH’s guidance is the) best solution given these extraordinary circumstances. We feel confident we are in a good place with this, given the many challenges we have had to overcome,” Kevin C. Brown, Interim Commissioner of Education, said in a news release.
The document details “safety expectations” and “best practices.” Safety expectations are regulations schools must abide by; best practices are options available to schools to further implement protections for students and staff.
“We know some of these things might be difficult to do in schools, and we took that into consideration as we developed the guidance. But these are the things we need to do to keep students and communities safe,” Steven Stack, a DPH commissioner, stated in a news release.
There are five subjects within the document: social distancing; cloth face coverings, school health policies and personal protective equipment; screening and school exclusion; sanitation and environmental factors; and contract tracing.
Regarding social distancing, the DPH and KDE require schools to:
• Stagger arrival and dismissal times.
• Re-arrange seating to maximize space between students to 6 feet or greater. If not possible, then students and the teacher must wear masks at all times in the classroom.
• Maintain 6 feet of space in hallways, bathrooms, gymnasiums and other communal areas.
• Reduce class sizes.
• Modify classes such as P.E., choir, art and more to meet distance and sanitation needs. If needs cannot be met, classes should be canceled.
• Cancel field trips, assemblies or any other activities that involve large gatherings of students in communal areas.
• Ensure students go directly to the classroom from the vehicle/bus and vice versa.
• Develop a bus plan to include the following sanitation and distancing needs such as leaving the first seat behind the driver empty at all times, wearing a mask at all times unless medically excused, staggering seating if the bus is not at full capacity, assigning seating for all passengers, loading the bus from back to front and offloading from front to back.
Regarding cloth face coverings, PPE and school health policies, the DPH and KDE require schools to:
• Enforce usage of masks for students and staff in first grade and above. Masks may be removed during class time if students maintain 6 feet of social distancing while sitting.
• Ensure masks fit snugly around the face, are secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for unhindered breathing, are able to be laundered and dried without damage (for reuse) and cover both nose and mouth.
• Ensure masks with images or wording on them abide by dress code.
• Train staff on the usage of PPE, what PPE is, where it is stored and how to properly don and dispose of PPE.
Regarding screening and school exclusion, the DPH and KDE require schools to:
• Check temperature of students and staff upon entryway of school property. Parents will be expected to check the child’s temperature before they get on the bus. Children will be checked again once reaching the school. The temperature must be below 100.4 degrees during both checks.
• Deny entry or send home any student or staff who display the following symptoms: temperature greater than 100.4, cough, vomiting/diarrhea, new rash, exposure to a COVID-19 case during a 48-hour period before onset of symptoms
• Have a designated isolation area for sick students.
Regarding sanitation and environmental standards, the DPH and KDE require schools to:
• Clean and disinfect all school facilities daily.
• Prioritize hand washing and check bathrooms regularly to ensure hand washing materials are available and hand drying options are present.
• Remove classroom area rugs to ensure floors are easy to clean.
• Prioritize cleaning of high-touch areas such as door handles, and ensure water fountains are cleaned regularly. It is recommended that students use reusable water bottles to reduce spread of germs.
• Require students to wash hands before going outside to the playground and upon re-entrance into the building. Recess schedules should be remodeled to reduce the number of classes on the playground at a time.
• Stagger lunch times and enforce social distancing in the cafeteria.
In regards to contact tracing, the DPH and KDE require schools to report any COVID-19 cases to local health departments and cooperate with contact tracing investigations. Anyone exposed to the ill person will be required to quarantine for 14 days.