COVINGTON, Ky. — Even with new guidance from the state department of education, some Northern Kentucky schools admit implementing the new requirements this fall will be tricky.
“The thing that concerns me most is the temperature checks,” said Covington Independent Schools Superintendent Alvin Garrison. “How are we going to do temperature checks for every employee and every student?”
Temperature checks are just one of the requirements put forth Wednesday by Kentucky Commission of Education Kevin Brown.
Some of the other guidelines include requiring students wear masks, social distancing markings in the hallways, new sanitation practices and working with local health departments on contact tracing if a positive COVID-19 case shows up at a school. Brown said the requirements may be difficult to implement smoothly.
“Necessary does not always equal easy,” Brown said. “The expectations that we are providing today for our schools and how to reopen them safely and how to reduce the risk, it is not easy.”
The mask-wearing requirement gets even more specific. The new rules say a student should wear a mask when riding the bus, moving through the building or sitting in a classroom where children can’t be separated by six feet.
“When you move, you mask,” Brown said. “That’s going to be the same rule in our schools.”
Brown acknowledged the politicization of mask wearing would make things more difficult for local school districts.
“Unfortunately, wearing a mask has become a divisive issue in our commonwealth and in our country,” Brown said. “So we’re going to need everybody in all of our communities to help our schools out.”
But in Covington, Garrison said he doesn’t expect any major issues with getting students to wear masks, and it won’t take away from students' ability to participate in the classroom.
“What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to take valuable learning time and spend it trying to discipline kids over masks,” Garrison said. “We don’t want this to be punitive. We want to encourage our students to do the right thing. And, again, I stress that 98% of them, 99% will want to do the right thing.”
Covington schools are still working finalizing reopening plans. Officials hope to have a version up for the school board to approve by mid to late July.
Just as teachers often ask students to get creative, Garrison said his staff will have to get creative about getting students back in the building safely. That safety, he said, is paramount.
“You can’t educate kids if they don’t feel like they’re in a safe environment,” Garrison said. “We’re going to make sure that our families have confidence that the schools are safe and ready for students to return. We miss them.”
The state is still planning on issuing more guidance to school in the coming days and throughout the summer on items like transportation, workplace health and safety.