Monday afternoon Dr. Stack, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and several education officials offered a number of updates on the state of education in the commonwealth amid the global pandemic. “This afternoon, we filed an emergency regulation addressing K-12 COVID-19 reporting requirements pursuant to existing statutes,” Dr. Stack said. Under the new regulation, no later than Monday, Sept. 28, all parents and guardians are required to report to the child’s school within 24 hours if their child tests positive for COVID-19, and all schools must report via a secure website, Monday through Friday, every day school is in session, data related to the coronavirus. He said the Kentucky Department of Education is sending instructions to schools on how to register with the online portal and report this data. “Using this data, KDPH will publish an online dashboard,” Dr. Stack said. “The dashboard link will be posted on or before Monday, Sept. 28, on the kycovid19.ky.govwebsite. “Publicly reporting this data is a necessary tool to enable students, parents and communities to make informed decisions COVID-19 risk in collaboration with the education and public health communities,” Dr. Stack said. Dr. Stack said KDPH still will publish its K-12 public health reports, also available on the kycovid19.ky.gov website.
In addition to reporting protocols, Dr. Stack provided updated guidance for schools on a variety of instructional modes. “Superintendents have requested local control. They have asked us to give them a metric to decide,” Dr. Stack said. “This tool provides the metric and public health guidance attached to it.” He said the guidance is in effect as long as the state’s positivity rate is less than 6% and the health care system has enough resources. A color-coded map showing incidence rates will provide districts with corresponding guidance. It will be updated every Thursday evening to guide schools for the following week.
Schools in green and yellow areas essentially follow KDE Healthy at Schools guidance. Schools in an orange zone should take enhanced measures, including more aggressive crowd limits, and should consider a variety of factors to determine what mode of instruction they should use. If a county reaches red, then both in person instruction should be suspended the following week and only remote learning should occur; schools may still use small groups per KDE guidance for special circumstances.
“Let me be clear, that there is not going to be an overall recommendation coming from me or my office post Sept. 28,” Gov. Beshear said. “What’s going to be provided is the information to make a week-by-week decision in our various school districts and counties based on prevalence and what public health experts believe is the right course based on that prevalence.” Dr. Stack added: “Once a county reaches red, it should return to yellow before resuming in person instruction to allow for disease activity to return to a safer level and to increase the probability of successfully staying open for in person instruction upon reopening.”
In addition, Dr. Stack said the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has published and continues to update its guidance on COVID-19. He said the KDPH is collaborating with officials. Dr. Lu Young, chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, was on hand Monday to support the new reporting process. “This data about cases in schools is crucial to support families and to support our reopening efforts across the commonwealth. We all need to have a better understanding of the impact of this virus on our kids and school personnel as it plays out in real time,” Dr. Young said. “Equally importantly, we need to use this information to track what is actually happening in our schools and districts on a daily basis as this information may very well help us prevent dangerous outbreaks in our neighborhoods before they ever happen.”
Lt. Gov. Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said: “This week, I will be working with the Department of Public Health and KDE to hold town halls with superintendents to teachers and everyone in between. Our goals are to be transparent and communicative, ensure accountability and inclusion and allow every voice to be heard.”
Superintendent Mike Smith and the JCPS have developed a great working relationship with the local health department. It is expected that the procedure will be implemented efficiently and that the school days will be more predictable with the new tool.
Dr. Houston Barber, superintendent of the Frankfort Independent Schools District, praised the new information. “As a father of four, I empathize with all Kentuckians about what school looks like today and how you’re navigating that course,” Dr. Barber said. “This tool that has been developed for K-12 is incredible. It allows for districts all across the state to work together with their local health officials and board teams and come up with a strategy that makes sense for their students, their families and their communities.”
Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, president of Kentucky State University, also spoke Monday in favor of the collaboration.
“Every call and request for information we’ve had to the Department of Public Health has been answered. The spirit of cooperation has been seamless and constant as we try to maneuver and respond to the changing dynamics of this pandemic,” Dr. Brown said. “We are excited that the Department of Public Health, in collaboration with CPE, will have a statewide list of all the campus dashboards. We are doing everything possible to give transparent and on time data to keep the public aware of what we are doing to keep our community safe.”