COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools: School Ventilation and COVID-19; Truancy and Compulsory Education, Pupil Transportation Updated

As Kentucky schools reopen, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is providing new guidance on ventilation and truancy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The previously released guidance on Pupil Transportation also has been updated.

Two guidance documents in the COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools series were released on Sept. 8: School Ventilation and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and Truancy and Compulsory Education.

The guidance on ventilation recognizes the vital role indoor airflow plays in managing COVID-19 risk. It outlines national standards from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The guidance acknowledges potential aerosol transmission of the virus and gives recommendations on using natural ventilation whenever possible. The guidance covers times and length of HVAC activation, filtration, air purification methods and barriers to airflow.

Should future national standards on ventilation conflict with KDE’s recommendations, the national standards will take precedence.

The guidance on truancy and compulsory education notes that compulsory attendance requirements remain in force amid the pandemic. That means schools must work with students and families to ensure participation, whether instruction is delivered in person, remotely through non-traditional instruction or through a blended model.

The document also discusses standards on compliance with and enforcement of truancy laws and policies.

The guidance acknowledges that Kentucky’s structure for delivering education, and the related system for funding, did not anticipate dealing with a pandemic. Accordingly, the state has temporarily waived laws that calculate funding based on in-person average daily attendance for the 2020-2021 school year.

Participation must be recorded in lieu of attendance, and the guidance outlines several methods to do so.

The recently updated Pupil Transportation guidance adds language to address the transport of students for athletic or extracurricular activities. The guidance points out that schools are allowed to use almost fully loaded buses in transporting students to and from school buildings for instruction due to the importance of getting students to school and the financial and logistical hardships districts would face trying to enforce social distancing on buses every day.

Extracurricular events, however, are different because schools are transporting smaller numbers of students and they should make a good faith effort to practice social distancing on buses for these types of events to the extent feasible and practical.

As the situation with the pandemic evolves, KDE is creating new guidance documents to meet the needs of Kentucky’s schools and districts. More guidance and resources can be found on KDE’s COVID-19 webpage.