Owensboro and Daviess County public schools presented their respective plans on Wednesday for all students returning to in-person classrooms all five days each week beginning March 22.
Both plans are subject to approval by each board of education and will be determined at each district’s Thursday, Feb. 25, board meeting.
In a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, superintendents for city and county schools said that with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Department of Education concerning actions following COVID-19 vaccinations, they feel confident in welcoming all K-12 students back to school.
In an executive order on Tuesday, Beshear expanded in-person instruction beginning March 1, or seven days after school district personnel received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Both Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County Public Schools staff members who opted to receive the vaccine will receive their second dose by March 14.
DCPS Superintendent Matt Robbins said about 60% of the district’s educational staff will have received the Moderna vaccine.
Matthew Constant, OPS superintendent, said about 80% of the city school district educational staff will also have received the vaccine.
Both superintendents said educators who opted not to receive the vaccine will be subject to the same quarantines as students that have been in place since the beginning of this school year.
Both also said that, when possible, students will be spread six feet apart. That might mean removing unnecessary items from classrooms to make more room or utilizing spaces like media centers to have more room to physically distance.
Students and staff will also be required to wear masks at all times unless they are eating a meal. In that case, they will be spread apart as much as possible, both superintendents said, and that schools will get creative on what meal times will look like.
Robbins said one of the biggest changes that encouraged this decision was the vaccine.
“The science around the Moderna vaccine is an absolute game-changer,” Robbins said. “That is what is really bringing us to this point and the fact that our staff is now going to have a hedge of protection that is great and large for us to lean upon.”
He also said educators “miss our kids.”
“We know they need us, and frankly we need them,” he said.
Constant said it has been 348 days since either school district has seen kids in a “normal school atmosphere.”
“That is just entirely too long to be without that security that all of us need in the whole community with schooling,” he said.
The decline in community spread and the studies that have been produced to indicate student-to-student spread is minimal within school buildings also contributed to the decision for re-entry, he said.
“These are all encouraging pieces of data that get us to this point,” Constant said. “I will just circle back and say once again how excited we are to welcome kids back on March 22, should the family feel like that’s the right decision for them.”
Both school districts are allowing parents to opt for their respective virtual academies should they feel uncomfortable sending their student back to school. That option is available for families not already signed up for the virtual academies.
OPS students have until March 12 to sign up for the virtual academy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and DCPS students have until March 8 to sign up by emailing email@example.com. Families who choose each district’s virtual academy at this point will remain enrolled in them until the end of the school year.
Both school districts will continue monitoring COVID-19 data within schools and reserve the option to revert back to the AB hybrid model, or move to virtual only, should they need to based on the number of infected and quarantined students and staff, according to their re-entry plans.
Both OPS and DCPS boards of education will vote on this re-entry plan at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, in respective meetings.
The DCPS meeting will be broadcast virtually on the district’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/DCPSTV/live.
OPS will meet in person at the district’s central office, at 450 Griffith Ave.
Bobbie Hayse, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7315