The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released a new guidance document May 15 about questions schools and districts should consider when they are making plans for how to restart school for the 2020-21 school year.
The document – “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools, Initial Guidance for Schools and Districts” – leads school leaders through a variety of questions to consider.
Many of the decisions on how to move forward in this challenging time will be decided by local boards of education and school-based decision-making councils.
Much is still unknown about how the COVID-19 pandemic will unfold during the summer and into the fall. At the recommendation of Gov. Beshear, KDE is encouraging schools to prepare for three contingencies for the start of the school year: an early opening, a traditional opening and a late opening. Current science does not indicate that the novel coronavirus will be affected by the seasons. The governor’s recommendation regarding opening will be based on information provided by the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).
1. Early opening: An early opening may be called for if DPH determines students may be at heightened risk for contracting COVID-19 later in the fall or winter while simultaneously experiencing low risk during the summer months. Under this plan, schools would be asked to open in July with an anticipated mid-year closure.
2. Traditional opening: A traditional opening would be called for if DPH determines that the risk of students contracting COVID-19 will remain relatively consistent throughout the school year. Under this plan, schools would be asked to open following their traditional routines and schedules.
3. Late opening: A late opening would be called for if DPH determines the risk of students contracting COVID-19 will remain high through the summer and fall and will begin to decrease as we transition into cooler months. Under this plan, schools would be asked to open in late September or early October.
Preparing for intermittent closures
Regardless of start time, schools and districts should remain vigilant in preparing for sudden intermittent closures or rapid transitions to extended periods of remote learning. KDE encourages schools and districts to build and communicate transition plans and maintain a constant state of readiness throughout the school year. This may involve changes to the way students store materials, the types of materials students take home daily and considerations for blended learning in lesson planning. For example, schools may determine that it would not be appropriate to use lockers and students should be encouraged to take all of their materials home every day.
Considerations for alternative learning experiences
KDE encourages districts to prepare alternative schedule models that may be deployed if the DPH recommends that schools reduce the number of students in the building. Districts may build alternative schedules that meet the needs of their population. KDE has prepared four possible alternative schedules as a starting point for consideration:
Under a scheduled rotation model, the school would assign students to groups that would attend school on alternating patterns, such as A-B days, AM/PM patterns or alternating weeks. This method relies on several flexible variables, such as student grouping, staff grouping, days of the week or the time of day.
Under this model, fewer students would be in the building during the day, allowing for greater social distancing. The reduction in students also could be used to a reduce class sizes, allowing for furniture to be removed from classrooms to promote necessary space and reduce unnecessary surfaces. Breakfast and lunch should be served in the classroom and plans should be made for deep, intensive cleaning of all surfaces between rotations.
When students are not in school, they may be participating in project-based learning opportunities, asynchronous instruction or other assignment-completion tasks. This option may be helpful to schools with limited mobile technology. This model also could encourage creative assignments with collaborative co-teaching designs.
Under a synchronous opt-in model, parents may choose whether their children attend school in person or virtually. Instruction would be delivered synchronously to students who are at school and at home through virtual live streaming.
This option requires heavy use of instructional technology, including digital tools that already are available in most classrooms (mobile devices, web cameras, digital meeting platforms and learning management systems). Careful consideration will need to be made for intentional activities to engage and support students participating from home as the in-person students may more easily draw the teacher’s attention.
This model leverages the strengths of teachers and staff and may require greater flexibility for co-teaching, co-facilitating and coaching opportunities to drive learning successes.
A hybrid model leverages components of the rotational model and synchronous opt-in model. Under a hybrid model, students would be sorted into two groups and would alternate periods of time in the school building and periods of time receiving synchronous instruction at home.
This plan requires heavy use of educational technology, including 1:1 portable devices and digital tools already available in the classroom.
Under a fully online model, students would receive instruction while at home through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous digital delivery methods. This method may be more appropriate for students in higher grade levels who can be more self-directed.
This model reflects existing remote learning models in place through Kentucky’s virtual learning providers, as well as many successful Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program designs.
The full document can be found at the following link: