Teachers and other educators from around the state took to YouTube Thursday for answers to some of their questions on returning to school in the midst of a pandemic.
Top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, interim Kentucky Commissioner of Education Kevin C. Brown and state Health Commissioner Steven J. Stack reviewed back-to-school guidance and fielded submitted questions from teachers.
The submitted questions suggested teachers are weighing the risks to their health as well as that of their students. They want to know how they will be impacted when school starts, and want clarification on some of the requirements schools will have to meet.
Teachers asked about paid leave, state monitoring for compliance with safety guidelines, safety of medically vulnerable teachers and what they should do if they feel their work environment is unsafe.
They got answers to those questions and an overview of one of the main documents outlining expectations for minimizing spread of COVID-19 at school.
Among things they learned:
• A waiver of emergency leave regulations will enable staffers to take more than the usual three-day maximum if they or a member of their family contracts the virus. It will be up to staffers who feel their work environment is unsafe to discuss the matter with school and district leaders and local health officials. Local officials also will make decisions impacting staffers with medical issues making them vulnerable. Teachers will not be required to be tested for the virus before the start of school.
• The state will not actively monitor schools for compliance with safety guidelines, such as masks and social distancing, Brown said. Instead, it will trust districts to do so on their own. “We’re going to act in good faith as a school community,” he said.
Questioners asked about funding to help schools meet safety requirements. The federal CARES act provides some money to pay for personal protective equipment and other items such as floor markings to maintain social distance. It also assists with remote learning technology and nutrition programs.
The officials urged educators to comply carefully with a requirement to maintain records of bus passengers, children in each classroom and cafeteria seating, among others, to aid in contact tracing — which identifies those a person with the virus may have contacted and infected.
They emphasized temperature-taking as one of the best and easiest ways of detecting possible infection, and masking and hand hygiene as the best ways of preventing spread of the virus.
The document reviewed in the session was the KDE’s flagship “Healthy at School” document developed by the state health department and KDE. It details five main areas — social distancing, masks and other protective equipment, screening, hygiene and contact tracing.
The document and others with school safety recommendations are available at the KDE website, education.ky.gov. A link to COVID-19 information is near the top of the main page.