Graphic reading: COVID-19 Preparing for Reopening in January 2021

By Jim Gaines

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released guidance on Dec. 18 on reopening schools for in-person instruction in January 2021, accompanying a new executive order by Gov. Andy Beshear that was signed at noon ET.

Beshear’s previous executive order, issued Nov. 18, allowed students to return to classrooms as of Jan. 4. The new order on Dec. 18 sets standards for reopening and recommends school districts not to resume in-person classes until Jan. 11.

The new KDE guidance on Preparing for Reopening in January 2021 encourages districts to continue to follow previously issued reopening guidance from KDE and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).

Districts should consider staggering building reopening, prioritizing the return of students at greater risk of learning loss or those with challenges to remote learning.

Schools must continue to offer “robust and rigorous” virtual programs, including access to Advanced Placement.

All public schools must comply with the safety expectations set forth in the Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools.

When schools return to in-person classes, the executive order requires that school districts provide remote working accommodations to certain employees considered to be at high risk of COVID-19 complications. District leaders should carefully review this new requirement and implement measures to allow remote work for teachers and staff considered high risk.  Furthermore, districts also may consider providing voluntary remote working arrangements to those staff members not covered by the executive order or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Also released Dec. 18 is an update to the Dec. 15 KDE guidance COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccinations. The revision contains details about school board members and student teachers.