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Importance of Masks Emphasized as Part of Kentucky's School Reopening Plan

Governor Andy Beshear and other state officials announced an interim “Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools” covering kindergarten through 12th-grade instruction in the commonwealth when school resumes in the fall.

“One of my top priorities as we have fought against the coronavirus is ensuring our children can safely return to school in the fall,” said Beshear. “Our top health experts and our educators have worked together to craft this guidance to take the necessary steps to protect our children and our dedicated staff as they return to school.”

“It is critical for everyone to do their part as good neighbors and good Americans to follow this guidance to protect our children, teachers and school personnel, and stop coronavirus outbreaks that would spread the disease, cost us more Kentuckians and further damage our economy." 

These safety expectations were written with input from the Education Continuation Task Force as well as the governor’s office, Department for Public Health, Kentucky Department of Education, the Cabinet of Education and Workforce Development, and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the governor said.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown stressed the importance of wearing masks to keep schools open and students, teachers and staff members safe. 

“I want to re-emphasize why it is important to have these expectations, why it is important that your child wears a mask at school. It’s important because we need to protect teachers like John Page,” Brown said, noting that Page – a welding instructor at Monroe County Area Technology Center – died recently of coronavirus at only 47 years old. “Our welding instructors, our teachers, our students, our staff deserve to work and learn in an environment with a reduced risk of a disease without a vaccine and without a treatment. That’s why the document we are releasing today is so important and that’s why I know our districts and our teachers are going to act in good faith to reopen our schools with these expectations.”

Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said all of the guidance and rules require some sacrifice but are needed.

“We know some of these things will be difficult to do in schools, and we tried to minimize these difficulties as much as possible when we developed the guidance,” Stack said. “But these are the things we need to do to keep students, staff and communities safe.”

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said the state was working to ensure waivers will be granted to schools needing to use Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days.

She also announced that through Expanded Care, schools can take advantage of federal funding that covers Medicaid-eligible students for services including nursing, audiology, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, interpreters, mobility and mental health.

“It is our duty to protect every child, but it is also our duty to protect every adult and every family member of the folks in those school buildings,” said Coleman. “The Governor, the Commissioner and I have come together to help provide the flexibility that is needed by schools to meet these unique circumstances.”

Coleman also highlighted the essential work teachers and bus drivers are called upon to perform during the global pandemic. She noted that in April, Fayette County school bus driver Eugenia Weathers, 56, died of COVID-19 and 16 other employees were sickened with the virus. In addition, in Grant County two school workers – Garylin “Stoney” Stone, 71, and Jo Ann Banks, 56, – also succumbed to the novel coronavirus.

“We are so grateful that Governor Beshear has put the health and safety of our bus drivers and students first,” said John Stovall, president of Teamsters 783 in Louisville. “Our folks are excited to get back to work, but we have to make sure we’re taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.”

-Staff report

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