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Education in Brief

Education Briefs

Kentucky School Advocate
August 2021

COVID impacts start of another school year  
After a summer of hoping that this school year would be a return to normal operations, a July surge of COVID-19 cases spurred by the Delta variant meant new concerns for school administrators, board members and parents about what the new school year will hold.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health on July 29 recommended that all students and staff in Kentucky schools wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status. The recommendation mirrors guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which calls for universal masking in schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also called for universal masking.

“Everyone in the K-12 setting in indoor spaces should wear a mask, period,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

Stack and Gov. Andy Beshear said the masking recommendation follows the federal guidance and will help keep students in in-person classes this fall.

“If we don’t to the right things in our schools, we are going to have quarantines,” he said, noting that large amounts of student quarantines will lead to parents not being able to go work. “We are going to see not just lost days in class, but we are going see lost productivity in an economy that is bouncing back.”

While the decision on whether to require masks has been left up to local school boards, the state’s back-to school-guidance says that masks are required on school buses under a CDC public health order.

As of July 29, only two districts, Jefferson County and Frankfort Independent, had said they would require all students and staff to wear masks indoors. Multiple districts said masks would be optional in buildings and at least seven districts said that masks would be optional on buses.Stack also called for districts to implement layered prevention strategies depending on how widespread the virus is in the community. Those include social distancing, enhanced cleaning, hand washing and encouraging those eligible to get the vaccine.

In addition to keeping students in school, districts with mask requirements should be to have a more normal sports season, Beshear said.

“None of our students were vaccinated when we went back to school last year. We’ve proven we can do this and we know exactly how to do this,” he said. “All I would encourage is, every superintendent, every board – we’re not playing, this is real, if you want to be successful, do the right thing and make the right decision.”

Before the CDC called for universal masking in schools, Beshear on July 26 said if districts would not require universal masking they should at least require masks for all unvaccinated students and staff and for all students under 12 who are too young to be eligible for the vaccine.

Acknowledging that parents in some communities have been vocal about not wanting their children to wear masks, Beshear said the state needs the buy-in of local district leaders.

“Every recommendation we’ve given is about the kids, and yes, that may mean you have to go through some tough school board meetings, but if it’s the right thing to do, that’s what you signed up for,” he said.

Districts receive FRYSCs grants    
Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman have awarded $15 million in grants to 150 local Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs) from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund 2 (GEER II).

The grants will fund educational support services needed due to COVID-19’s impact on schools, youth and families, with a focus on early childhood education and child care, as well as family crisis and mental health counseling. FRYSCs applied for a maximum $100,000 grant.

“This funding will help parents return to work knowing their children are learning in a safe, caring place, and it will also help families bounce back from the mental and emotional tolls of the past year,” Beshear said.

The grants will be managed by the Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. More than 850 FRYSCs provide services to Kentucky children, youth and families in approximately 1,200 schools.

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