- What is coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus – a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified – that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
For the most current coronavirus information, consult these resources:
- For Kentucky-specific information on COVID-19, visit the Kentucky Department for Public Health COVID-19 webpage.
- For the latest information and prevention updates, visit the CDC COVID-19 webpage.
- For specific information about the disease, consult the CDC fact sheet about COVID-19.
- What guidance is the Kentucky Department of Education providing to school and district leaders about how to plan for the coronavirus?
The priority of the Kentucky Department of Education is to support the success of the whole child, which includes being attentive to students’ health and wellness. We urge school and district leaders to make decisions that prioritize the health and safety of students.
With that in mind, we are urging school and district leaders to:
- Stay current on the latest coronavirus information.
- Stay in contact with local departments of health to determine what measures are necessary.
- Will the Kentucky Department of Education tell schools and districts they must close?
No. Gov. Andy Beshear recommended on Thursday, March 12, that all schools consider suspending in-person classes for a period of at least two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, to help control the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the state.
School districts are empowered to work closely with local health departments to assess the risk to their student populations and their communities and to make decisions accordingly.
Again, it is imperative that school and district leaders keep the health and safety of students first and foremost in their decision-making process.
- Are there plans in place to ensure students continue to learn while schools are closed?
Every Kentucky school district should have a plan in place for emergency situations that could lead to long-term closures. Our schools deal with outbreaks of illness on a regular basis, such as the seasonal flu outbreak that closed many districts this winter. While the coronavirus is new, the same procedures districts use during flu outbreaks can be of use during this time.
School districts may choose to utilize KDE’s Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program for these days if they have been approved to do so by KDE. The NTI Program is an optional program that encourages the continuation of academic instruction on days when school would otherwise be canceled. Districts create plans to deliver instruction to every student in the district and provide for student-teacher interaction on NTI days.
Districts using NTI on a day when schools are closed will not have to make that day up at the end of the year.
Eighty-three of Kentucky’s 172 public school districts were approved to participate in the NTI Program during the 2019-2020 school year prior to the start of the school year. The remaining 89 districts were eligible to apply for a program waiver that would allow them to utilize NTI instruction upon approval from their local boards of education.
In addition, KDE and the governor’s office are working with the Kentucky General Assembly on legislation that would increase the number of NTI days available during the current school year.
- Will the amount of required instructional time for the school year be reduced if schools are closed for an extended period of time?
The most important consideration for schools and districts should be, “What do we need to do to keep our students and communities safe?” Any concerns about instructional time will be addressed, if necessary, after the health and safety of students has been assured.
- What if schools must close during state testing? How will that be handled?
The most important consideration for schools and districts should be, “What do we need to do to keep our students and communities safe?” Any concerns about the administration of state assessments will be addressed, if necessary, after the health and safety of students has been assured.
K-PREP and Alternate K-PREP assessments may be impacted by the closure of districts and a possible increase in the number of NTI days. KDE is preparing for all possible scenarios that could impact these assessments.
The ACT was administered to most high school juniors in Kentucky public schools on March 10. For districts that were not in session and for students who were absent on that date, a makeup test date will be made available.
KDE also is working with schools and districts to reschedule career and technical education end-of-program and Skilled Trades TRACK (carpentry and electrical) assessments that were scheduled to occur while schools are closed.
- Will schools continue to provide meals to students while they are closed?
The Kentucky Department of Education has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a waiver that would permit Kentucky school districts to provide meals in non-group settings during school closures. This would enable districts to be reimbursed for meals that they choose to serve to students on school closure days that are consumed off site.
- Will school staff members be monitoring students for signs of coronavirus?
Teachers and school staff members should follow best practices as outlined by the Kentucky Department for Public Health for preventing the spread of illness.
- Are there instructional materials for teachers and school staff on how to reduce risk for themselves, their students and others?
The Kentucky Department of Education has communicated information to district health coordinators about best practices to reduce the spread of illness, as well as resources from the National Association of School Nurses. These practices should be promoted, encouraged and followed to provide the safest, healthiest atmosphere for both students and staff members. Schools that remain in session should work closely with local health departments as well as students and families to make sure anyone with symptoms stays home and receives appropriate treatment and testing.
Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a fact sheet with information on how caregivers, parents and teachers can talk to children during an infectious disease outbreak.
- Should schools consider disinfecting facilities as a preventative measure?
Schools and local departments of health should work together to provide the safest, healthiest atmosphere for both students and staff members. Schools and districts should have plans in place for disinfecting their facilities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidance on cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants for use in childcare settings. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides resources for cleaning and disinfecting facilities.
- Who will determine when it is safe to reopen schools if schools must close because coronavirus reaches a community, but new infections decline?
School districts will make the determination about when to reopen in consultation with local health departments and with input from state health officials.