(Sept. 10, 2021) During this week’s extraordinary session of the General Assembly, legislators enacted policies that localize many aspects of pandemic response in Kentucky’s 171 public school districts. The passage of SB 1, and other measures, provides increased flexibility for school boards, superintendents and local health officials to tailor mitigation strategies to their communities’ unique circumstances, helping them more effectively provide in-person instruction and student supports. Public education advocates are left pondering this morning whether the legislation did enough for schools, but the special session made clear the role school board teams must continue to play in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic.
Disagreements over COVID-19 policy have become heated, fueled at times by misinformation and uncertainty from a more potent variant of the virus. There is, however, near-universal agreement by education stakeholders on two fronts. There is consensus around keeping our students safely in school as much as possible, and there is understanding that we all must do our parts to minimize the spread of the virus to make that happen.
Disruption to in-person learning early on in this school year stems largely from staff shortages resulting from quarantines and positive cases - inhibiting instruction, transportation and food service for students. Legislation passed this week provides districts with several additional options to address this issue, as well as certainty over funding, and some additional options for remote learning in the event in-person instruction must be paused.
One of the most effective strategies to maintaining uninterrupted in-person instruction is to increase Kentucky’s vaccination rate. Aside from its effectiveness in stemming the spread and drastically reducing the severity of symptoms, fully vaccinated school personnel and students are not subject to the same restrictive quarantine protocols. This keeps more students, educators and staff in the classroom - even after potential exposure - as long as they remain asymptomatic. KSBA therefore encourages all Kentuckians, if they are able, to get vaccinated.