When kids start school later this year, they’ll wear cloth face masks on buses and in schools, and they will practice physical distancing of 6 feet, according to the state’s new Healthy at School guidelines released June 24.

Temperatures will be taken before students enter schools. When a bus monitor is available, temperatures will be taken before students board buses.

The state’s new guidance is divided into two categories: safety expectations and best practices. Safety expectations should be considered mandatory rules. Best practices are extra steps schools should take when possible.

Kevin Brown, Kentucky Department of Education interim commissioner, said state officials built flexibility into the guidelines because schools need to be able to innovate during a worldwide pandemic.

For schools that don’t have the space to follow 6-foot physical distancing rules, workarounds exist.

Other flexibility allows schools to offer a combination of digital and in-person classes, and districts can reinstate digital instruction if their communities experience spikes in COVID-19. Schools will be allowed an unlimited number of non-traditional instruction days during the upcoming school year.

“In Kentucky, we honor local control,” Brown said.

Amid so many unknowns, state funding will flow to districts based on the previous year’s calculations, Brown said.

“Having just received the Healthy at School guidance at the same time it was released to the public, we will need time to unpack it all as it relates to our specific plans we’ve been working on for some time now,” said Matthew Constant, superintendent at Owensboro Public Schools.

“The flexibility around (non-traditional instruction) days as well as how schools are funded will definitely help us,” Constant said.

OPS officials plan to take nearly 2,000 responses from families and students and communicate the district’s plan at a later date, he said.

Daviess County Public Schools is dedicated to opening the academic year with in-person classes on Aug. 26, said Matt Robbins, superintendent.

The district has plans in place for digital learning for students who may have health issues and concerns, Robbins said.

“... We do feel like having in-person school is the direction we need to go ... ,” Robbins said. “It’s going to require a lot of planning, preparation (and) deep thinking to make that successful. But that’s our ambition, and we have the time to dedicate between now and Aug. 26.”

In other business, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he signed an agreement Wednesday with private companies and universities in the Netherlands to bring the world’s best ag technology to Kentucky.

“We have an incredible opportunity to rewrite Kentucky’s economy,” Beshear said.

He wants the state to become an international leader in food supply.

Beshear announced that unemployment claim specialists would open a site in Owensboro between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. No location was announced.

By Thursday, Beshear expects a portal to be operational that will allow residents to register for appointments, which should keep waiting to a minimum.

When it came to COVID-19, Beshear reported 229 new confirmed cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 14,363.

Also, he reported one more death. To date, 538 Kentuckians have died from the virus.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky public health commissioner, advised residents to be careful when they make travel plans and to wear face masks, use hand sanitizer and practice physical distancing when they travel. At least one cluster of state residents — and possibly two clusters — contracted the virus after visiting Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Stack said.

Green River District Health Department officials reported four additional confirmed COVID-19 cases — two in Daviess County, one in Ohio County and one in Webster County. The total number of reported COVID-19 cases in the seven-county district now stands at 846.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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