The Kentucky Education Association, which represents 42,000 educators in the state, issued a statement Aug. 7 asking for school districts to decide to begin the school year virtually, as opposed to in-person.

According to the statement, issued via social media, the organization said that beginning the school year virtually is the “responsible decision to protect students and educators.”

“In-person instruction should not resume until, at a minimum, the infection rate in Kentucky statewide and the infection rate in the county in which the school district is located both fall below 4 percent and both remain below 4 percent for 21 consecutive days as measured by a 7-day rolling average,” the statement said. “Districts must also consider other factors unique to their own communities, such as the infection rate among school-aged children and whether the Department of Public Health supports their reopening plan. Doing anything else is simply irresponsible.”

However, the organization also calls for districts to take aggressive action even if those benchmarks are met and the schools are opened to in-person learning.

“Even when those benchmarks are met, school districts that plan to reopen to in-person instruction must implement appropriate, comprehensive mitigation procedures, must continue to offer virtual instruction to families that request it, must accommodate staff members who are at high risk or who live with a person at high risk, and must be ready to return entirely to virtual instruction if the state or county metrics require it,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, this will be the reality of public education and of our economy until there is an effective vaccine or reliable treatment for COVID19, or both. And no one can predict just when that might be.”

The current Kentucky Department of Education guidance allows for districts to decide on reopening plans following a number of guidelines and benchmarks. However, during a press conference on Aug. 5, Gov. Andy Beshear made a statement, quoted in the KEA press release, that, if in-person classes were set to start that day and he had to make a recommendation, he would recommend they push the in-person start date back.

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