Somerset Independent Schools and Pulaski County Schools have released their back-to-school COVID-19 plans. Both schools based their plans off of guidelines and requirements provided by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Office of Governor Andy Beshear.

Both districts have adopted similar plans, but have a few differences between them, such as whether the schools or the parent will provide masks and whether students’ temperatures will be taken by bus personnel before students can ride.

Somerset Independent Schools

The reopening plan released to parents Friday states that school will begin August 5, and students will have a choice of attending in person or through online instructional days (distance learning).

For students coming to school, they will be required to wear masks at all times except when sitting at their desk within the classroom or while eating. That means masks are required to and from school while riding a bus, during all class changes and anytime they are moving throughout the building.

Students with medical reasons for not wearing masks must bring in a doctor’s note.

Somerset Independent will provide two washable/reusable masks for each student, and some disposable one will be available if students forget their mask.

Students will have their temperatures taken before being allowed to board the bus. They will be sent back to their house if their temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher. School staff will also call parents to let them know their child’s temperature was too high to ride the bus.

Students will have assigned seats on the bus.

“Please realize that the bus routes may take a little longer to run since we are adding these steps to the driver’s daily routine,” the district stated. “Once students have their temperature scanned to ride the bus, they do not need to be scanned again while entering the building. Bus riders will need to enter the building at a designated, separate entrance from parent drop off or driver students.”

Students who don’t ride the bus will have their temperatures taken as they enter the building, before the parents leave or drive away.

“In the case that a student has a high temperature, the parent can take the child home before he or she enters the building,” according to the district.

If a child develops COVID-like symptoms during the day, a “sick bay” will be designated for them to wait at to be picked up.

In the classrooms, students will be seated six feet apart. During lunch, students must sit six feet apart and should not sit facing each other.

Cafeteria and classrooms may be used for student to eat lunch. All cafeteria staff will wear masks at all times.

While all field trips are cancelled, students in pre-school through fifth grade will still have scheduled recess times.

School surfaces, such as restroom areas, will be sanitized frequently. Students will not be allowed to use lockers.

Students are permitted to bring their own water bottles, as water fountain usage will be discouraged.

For parents who choose distance learning services, their children will receive assignments both through technology-related means (videos) and through paper/pencil assignments that can be returned electronically or in drop-off areas at the school.

Parents have until July 12 to complete an “intent for learning method” through an online application.

Parents and students will have the chance to change their choice of instruction method at the beginning of the school year or at the end of the nine-week term.

Other guidelines and more information is available through the district’s website.

As with all other school districts, plans may change due to state requirements, local COVID-19 outbreaks or widespread school closures.

Pulaski County Schools

Similar to Somerset Schools, the Pulaski County School District will begin August 5. They have also made a list of requirements for students who wish to attend class in person, as well as requirements for how to participate in distance learning.

For those who want to attend class in person, students will be expected to have their temperatures taken by their parents or guardians at home before boarding the bus.

Students will be required to wear masks while on the bus and will be assigned seats.

Those with a medical reason not to wear a mask must provide a doctor’s note.

Any students showing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board the bus, but staff will not be screening for high temperatures until they arrive at school.

Students will also be required to wear masks in the school building at all times except when eating and when sitting at their desk. All desks will be six feet apart.

Parents are expected to supply their children with their own masks.

Superintendent Patrick Richardson said a limited number of masks will be available for families who cannot provide them for financial reasons. Those will be available through the Family Resource Center.

Students will have their temperatures check upon enter the building. At a special called board meeting held Thursday, Pulaski’s Board of Education gave Richardson the authority to spend up to $175,000 on digital equipment that can take students’ temperatures, with most of that going towards equipment that can scan up to 30 students at a time.

Richardson asked for that type of scanner, he said, because trying to scan thousands of students by hand “just wasn’t feasible” for them.

Any student or staff who starts to feel symptomatic during the school day will need to report to the school nurse immediately.

Lunch will be prepared and served by lunchroom staff only. Students will not be allowed to serve themselves. Lunchroom staff will wear masks at all times.

If cafeterias are used, seats will be assigned and social distancing will be required. Some schools may choose to have student eat in their classrooms.

Recess will take place, but students will be required to social distance during recess. Playground equipment will not be utilized.

All common areas and high traffic areas will be disinfected on a regular basis.

Those who choose to have their students attend school through a virtual classroom must sign a contract saying they will abide by all the requirements. Families must be able to have access to the internet in some fashion, whether it be at home or a willingness to go to the school or some business that has a wi-fi connection in order to download instructional materials.

Richardson stressed that distance learning will be much more intense than what students experience through iLearn days.

“As a parent, you’re going to have to know that if you choose the virtual option, the amount of time required for that child to be on a computer, the accountability for the child to turn in lessons and the work virtually on time … we’re talking about online virtual instruction. Whatever you make as a student through online work, you make. If you make a ‘D’ then you’re going to get a ‘D.’”

Richardson said their will be one opportunity for students and parents to change their type of instruction, but for the most part, once a student is on that particular track, they will not be allowed to switch back and forth.

“There’s a whole lot of choices for folks to make. And I’ll be honest, there’s not any of them that are good,” Richardson told the board Thursday evening. “I don’t like any of them, but we’re forced to make decisions.”

Richardson also said plans could be changed or fine-tuned throughout the school year, depending on state recommendations or the status of COVID-19 in the community.

It is possible that schools could be shut down again, requiring the district to turn to all-virtual learning, he said.

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