Kentucky Schools Welcome Students Back Amidst COVID Pandemic

Leah Tyrrell, Editor-in-Chief

In all the confusion surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of whether there would be a school year, and if there was, how it would be managed, was among the numerous pressing questions looming over the country. As August grew near, officials and administrators worked to devise a plan that would allow for minimal impact should there be a case at the school.  

Originally, Kentucky schools did not plan on reopening and instead aimed to continue with nontraditional instruction (NTI) athe start of the school year. In April, Governor Beshear had asked that schools remained closed until more information about the status of the virus was known. However, in May, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released a guide for schools planning to reopen to follow. It consisted of a list of precautions the schools would be asked to take should they choose to reopen. The KDE stated that schools would be allowed to open their doors as earlier at July or as late as October under a set of five conditions.  

One of the more significant components of the plan was the implementation of contact-tracing protocol. In order to minimize the damage in the event of a caseschools would issue strict rules to keep track of where students and staff were throughout the day. Such tracing is done by assigning and sticking to a seating chart in every class, signing out when leaving the classroom, using more than one entrance and assigning each to a specific grade level or other groups of people. Keeping close tabs on the students’ and staff’s whereabouts would allow the health officials to identify who came in close contact with whom. Contact-tracing was crucial to the plan because if someone at the school were to test positive, the people at risk were easily identifiable and also subject to quarantine in order to prevent any further spread if anyone were to catch the virus from them, minimizing the risk of rapid spread of the disease and facilitates a healthy environment.  

While contact tracing will identify who is at risk of having contracted the virus, other regulations must be set in place to minimize the risk in the first place. Social distancing is among these rules, along with wearing a face covering at all times, temperature checks before entering the school, spraying a disinfectant on the desks after every class period, eliminating turning in paper assignment and reverting to submitting assignments online and eating lunch in the classrooms rather than having students gather in large numbers in the cafeteria. While some of these rules are specific to Tilghman, many, such as the face coverings and social distancing, are required by the state.  

Despite the several provisions put in place by the school districts across the state, the decision for schools to reopen so soon was met with some backlash. In mid-August, Governor Beshear put out a recommendation that schools should not hold in-person instruction until Sept. 28 and should do virtual learning until then. More than 130 districts have said they will heed Beshear’s advice, but the remainder of the districts have come up with alternate plans that would still allow for students to attend school in-person with the option to opt out and do virtual learning. Many schools have chosen to do intermittent classrooms meaning groups of students will alternate days on which they attend school in person and participate in class online. Other schools have gone forward with the original plan to go entirely in-person. Proponents of Beshear’s recommendation feel as though the re-openings were rushed and inconsiderate to the immunocompromised. However, those in opposition believe that, since the kids are at a lower risk of contracting the disease, the schools should offer in-person so kids can be more engaged in their education and return to somewhat of a normalcy. They also claim school serves as a safe place for kids whose home life may not be safe, or they consider the parents who have to work but also have young children at home.  

Despite all the chaos this world is experiencing right now, school districts across the nation have tried to restore some sense of normalcy for students, even if things aren’t completely back to how they used to be.