By Jacob Perkins

Gov. Andy Beshear announced an executive order during his Feb. 23 media briefing that recommends all public school districts offer or expand in-person instructional opportunities beginning March 1, or seven days after district personnel receive their second COVID-19 vaccination.

Students, educators and staff will be required to wear face coverings while on school grounds and inside school district transportation at all times, subject to the exceptions listed in the face coverings order, Executive Order 2021-070, and any renewal orders.  

“This is one of the ways that we can keep everybody in that school safe,” Gov. Beshear said. “It’s going to be incredibly important, especially for districts that may go back for the first time, that this is strictly enforced.”

Schools will need to evaluate ventilation systems and consider appropriate safety procedures, as well as reduce density in classrooms, halls, schools buses and other areas of heightened risk.

“While we believe we can have a safe resumption of in-person learning, in our larger school districts it is a challenge that requires what is already happening; a lot of communication,” Gov. Beshear said. “… But I believe, with what we now know, … that specific plans can be achieved where everybody can ultimately feel as comfortable as we can in the midst of COVID.”

The order also advises schools to continue to comply with the health and safety expectations outlined in the Healthy at School guidance document.

Additionally, as of March 1, all school requirements tied to the color-coded COVID-19 county incidence rate are discontinued, Gov. Beshear said.

Schools should, however, regularly review the map to ensure they are making informed decisions to help limit the spread of the virus in their local community. According to the order, if a county experiences a spike in positive cases, school leadership should consider postponing, canceling or scaling down activities. 

Though the order calls for expanded in-person learning, all public schools shall continue to provide meaningful virtual options for all students who choose to remain in non-traditional learning for the remainder of the school year.

“As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, there is no replacement for in-person instruction,” said Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “We respect Gov. Beshear’s authority in issuing this executive order and look forward to working alongside our districts as they work their way back to a new normal.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has worked to provide clear and up-to-date guidance to facilitate school operations in a safe manner. On Feb. 22, the department released “KDE COVID-19 Guidance 2.0,” which represents the culmination of that work.

This comprehensive resource features guidance from all nine KDE offices, with many of the included components being previously issued as stand-alone documents.