From the Desk of Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. An update for Kentucky's Families about the COVID-19 crisis and our schools, June 26, 2020

Dear Kentucky Public School Families:

As discussions continue about reopening schools in the fall, I am sharing with you Kentucky’s Healthy at School guidance released Wednesday.

The Department for Public Health guidelines state that all students will be expected to wear a mask on buses and at school except for kindergartners and students with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks. Masks will be required when 6 feet of space can’t be maintained in classrooms and while moving through buildings. Schools will be asked to mark 6 feet in distance, much like what is occurring now in our stores, groceries and other businesses.

We need your help in ensuring that our students throughout the state wear masks and understand the importance of social distancing. I know that the idea of wearing masks has become more of a political statement than a public health one. That’s unfortunate, because wearing a mask is one of the best ways we have right now to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. I know many, if not most of you, want your students to return to the classroom and we want that too. But for that to happen, we must make sure our schools are not turning into sources of infection for our communities.

Please continue to be role models for your students and your community. You can do this by wearing masks in public and stressing the importance of wearing a mask to your children. Your children look to you first for direction and they follow your good example.

Also included in the guidance is if social distancing can’t be maintained in school cafeterias, schools should consider allowing students to eat their meals in classrooms. School assemblies must be limited and districts should follow the public health guidance on large gatherings. 

Please understand that your school district will be expected to enforce social distancing, ask students to wear masks, check their temperatures, frequently sanitize surfaces and assist in contact tracing. Students who have temperatures greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit upon arrival to school will be sent home.

I know some people also are upset by the idea of contact tracing. When the guidance says contact tracing, it means public health officials will be given access to documents like bus manifests and seating charts to determine who had close contact with a student or teacher who has tested positive for COVID-19. This practice has been used for decades to help limit the spread of other highly infection diseases like measles and mumps.

I also wanted to let you know that on Wednesday, I issued a memorandum that temporarily suspends the statute capping non-traditional instruction (NTI) days at 10. I also will be making a recommendation to the Kentucky Board of Education for an administrative regulation that will allow unlimited NTI days for the next school year. This will give districts the flexibility they need to deliver instruction either online or in-person as their needs change during this pandemic. 

I do realize that many of these requirements are going to be difficult for districts to plan for and for students and families to accept. But as in the rest of our lives, the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do. Wearing masks and maintaining social distance are the primary defense we have right now to protect our children and our communities from COVID-19 as schools reopen. Together we can make great strides to keep every child safe.