LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Department of Education directed school districts Monday to prepare for short, medium and long-term COVID-19 closures next school year.
Schools throughout Kentucky closed in mid-March at the recommendation of Gov. Andy Beshear at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state's Education Continuation Task Force is working on guidance to help schools reopen at the start of the school year, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said Monday.
"We are working to meet the changing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shifted from nontraditional instruction in the spring to how do we reopen schools and go back to being healthy at school," he said.
While the task force is still determining ways schools can safely resume in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year, districts should be ready to close on short notice, according to KDE's guidance document released Monday.
"It is crucial that schools remain prepared for all school closures, regardless of the length of the closure," KDE wrote in its guidance document. The state defines a short-term closure as up to two days, a mid-term closure as up to 10 days, and a long-term closure as 11 days or more.
Districts should plan on integrating technology into normal classroom instruction and allow students to take any school-issued devices home daily so transitioning to remote learning will be easier for students if closures are called on short notice, according to the guidance document. Other instructional materials, such as textbooks, should be taken home as well, KDE suggested.
Mid- and long-term closures envision use of nontraditional instruction, which all Kentucky school districts transitioned to during the COVID-19 pandemic. While schools can move to distance learning in short-term closures, KDE says that districts could simply cancel classes for up to two days.
Districts could also skip providing meals for closures of up to 10 days, but KDE recommends that schools provide emergency food services in closures of more than 11 days, similar to programs implemented during COVID-19 closures.
School districts of all sizes must grapple with the best ways to reopen while complying with public health guidelines this fall, Coleman said.
The task force discussed Monday how schools will comply with guidance on social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing hands and surfaces, temperature checks, and contact tracing, she said.
"There are not new items, but what is new is we have to now contemplate how does this look in a school system? How does this look when there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of students in a building at one time?" Coleman said.
While reopening guidance for schools is a work in progress, Beshear expects there to be a mix of mandatory and recommended steps to safely resume in-person instruction.
"The more a school district does of not just the mandatory but the highly recommended, the safer it becomes," he said. "... There's not going to be a perfectly safe option out there. We know we've got to get back to school."
Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville; Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington; Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg; and Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, have recently been added to the Education Continuation Task Force, Coleman said
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