Gov. Andy Beshear has signed a new executive order making certain health and safety guidelines mandatory for schools returning to in-person classes on Jan. 4. Beshear announced these measures on Monday. His order gives them the force of law.
The order makes a portion of the “Healthy At School” guidelines mandatory. Previously these had only been recommendations. The document, created by the Department of Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Education, is divided into “expectations” and “best practices.” The “expectations” become mandatory under Beshear’s order. These guidelines are mostly around mask-wearing, social distancing and cleaning.
Many of the expectations are flexible. For example, desks only have to be spaced 6 feet apart, if possible.
“If the physical space in the school does not allow for spacing students’ desks 6 feet apart, space desks as far away as possible,” the expectations read.
The order also requires schools to allow high-risk employees to work remotely if their county is in the orange or the red zone, and the high-risk employee has not yet had the coronavirus vaccine, or can’t take it, due to a health condition.
Under the order all public schools have to offer “meaningful virtual options for all students,” and make sure those students have the same access to rigorous instruction and coursework as they would have in-person. The virtual participation option can’t have a negative impact on a student’s academic standing. Advanced courses and career and technical training must also be offered virtually.
Some districts have already announced plans to return the week of January 4th. However, while that is allowed, Beshear recommends districts wait until January 11th, as health officials are concerned about a possible surge in coronavirus after holiday gatherings.