Superintendents Advisory Council Virtual Meeting, July 6, 2020

  • Superintendents asked about what should be done if a parent or guardian refuses to have their child tested for COVID-19.
  • KDE will require districts to report their participation numbers three times next school year.

By Jacob Perkins

With the release of the Healthy at School guidance on June 24, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) provided Kentucky’s schools with a framework of expectations when buildings reopen.

As school districts throughout the Commonwealth begin to develop these reopening plans, superintendents have heard concerns from their constituents and reached out to KDE and DPH during the July 6 Superintendents Advisory Council (SAC) to get a clearer idea what schools are being asked to do.

The guidance recommends students should stay home or be sent home if they have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees. SAC members inquired about the steps that would need to be taken before the student is allowed back into the school building after they have recorded a temperature of greater than 100.4 degrees.

Kay Kennedy of KDE’s Division of District Support recommended that districts stay in contact with their local health department for more detailed guidance on this potential situation.

Dr. Connie White, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky DPH, said the student’s health provider also would be able to determine when the student could return to school.

The superintendents asked about what should be done if a student has had their temperature recorded at greater than 100.4 degrees and their parent or guardian refuses to have them tested for COVID-19.

Ballard County Superintendent Casey Allen said his district’s current policy would allow the student back into the school building after 24 hours without a fever. However, he acknowledged that due to the current landscape, this policy may need to be adjusted.

Angela McDonald, a nurse consultant from KDE’s Division of District Support, said that according to current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a person who tests positive for COVID-19 must be symptom-free for at least 72 hours after a 10-day isolation period. This includes being fever-free without the assistance of fever reducers, said McDonald.

As for the refusal of testing, Emily Messerli, immunization branch manager for DPH, suggested districts reassure parents that there is no out-of-pocket charge on COVID-19 tests.

SAC members deliberated the idea of potentially mandating COVID-19 testing. Gov. Andy Beshear has mentioned he would hope to see 10% of school employees tested per week.

In an ideal scenario, when a student or school staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the health department in their home district will be notified. Contact tracing allows public health workers to record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.

Calloway County Superintendent Tres Settle said he has concerns about the effectiveness of the program if a parent were to refuse to have their child tested after displaying symptoms.

“If they were at school or in contact with other children at some point and they had a temperature, … there is that possibility that it is COVID,” said Settle. “… But if they don’t test and we don’t know that they’re positive, then we’ve effectively allowed them to contact others.”

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown told the members that both KDE and the Kentucky DPH will work on providing either an answer to these concerns or additional guidance during the July 7 Special Superintendents’ Webcast.

KDE Memorandum and Participation
KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney joined the SAC members to go over the memorandum submitted by Brown and signed by Lt. Gov. and Secretary of the Education and Workforce Cabinet Jacqueline Coleman on June 24.

The memorandum temporarily suspends the statute capping non-traditional instruction (NTI) days at 10, Brown said he will recommend an administrative regulation to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) providing for unlimited NTI days for the next school year.

Also in the memorandum, KDE temporarily suspended statutes that calculate school funding based on in-person average daily attendance during the upcoming school year. Brown will recommend to the KBE an alternative funding model for the 2021-2022 school year similar to that selected by local school districts for the upcoming school year.

Brown took action pursuant to emergency authority under the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-243 following extensive feedback from school districts requesting the flexibility to use a blended in-person and NTI instructional approach without risking substantial loss of school funding based on average daily attendance.

When determining SEEK funding for the 2020-2021 school year, districts were allowed flexibility in Senate Bill 177 (2020) to choose whether they wanted to submit their 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 school year attendance data for calculations.

For next school year, however, districts will need to count participation instead of counting attendance.

If students are in the classroom, participation will be counted if they are present. If the school is using remote learning, participation can be determined by an interaction between teachers and students, student engagement, students logging into a learning management system or submission of paper-based assignments.

Kinney said that to show evidence of participation, schools will need to show participation for each student each day.

“But, we do understand, especially for those students who are utilizing the paper and pencil, you may need to record those on a weekly basis rather than a daily basis as assignments come back in,” said Kinney.

KDE will require districts to report their participation numbers three times during the next school year. The first will be in October, the second in January and the third by July 1. After each report, participation numbers will be posted on the KDE website and provided to the Legislative Research Commission, Kinney said.

KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations and Office of Continuous Improvement and Support will team up to provide assistance to Kentucky’s school districts as they work to count participation next year.

“We are going to repurpose our staff here to support you and to help those who are working on participation reports to make it happen,” said Kinney.

In the memorandum, Brown said he is recommending the KBE adopt an emergency administrative regulation that sets guidelines for recording student participation during traditional instructional days, NTI days, and blended in-person and NTI days.

The SAC is scheduled to meet again on July 20.

Previous coverage of the Superintendents’ Advisory Council

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