Will face coverings be required next school year?
Over the past several weeks, the district has been reviewing guidelines released from several agencies regarding reopening schools in the fall. As we are now in the second week of July, everyone is anxiously awaiting to see exactly what the protocols and safety procedures are for students and staff. As more of the guidelines become finalized, school districts are able to solidify plans for communication to students, staff, and parents/guardians. The question on everyone’s mind is whether students will be required to wear face masks at school.
As communicated in a previous One Question, One Answer segment, every student riding a bus is required to wear a face covering during the entire route. If you plan on dropping your child off to school, as they enter the building each day, their temperatures will be checked, they will wear one of the approved face coverings, and they will sanitize their hands. We recognize this process is a big change for our students, as well as staff, and will take some time to get accustomed. We will make every effort to make this “check-in process” as convenient and smooth as possible for students, staff, and parents.
As students enter the building and move to their classrooms, students will be required to wear a face covering. Upon entering classrooms, students will be asked to sanitize their hands. Students will keep their masks on if unable to properly social distance. In many of our classrooms that will be the situation, due to the number of students per square foot. We want our classrooms to look as normal as possible; but masks will need to be worn at all times for students in 1st grade through 12th grade, if social distancing cannot be achieved. We want students working together like they normally do because collaboration is a key strategy in Fleming County classrooms. In order for this to happen, students will need to wear masks and sanitize their hands often.
Many European countries that have reopened, such as Denmark, encourage the use of outdoor learning spaces which allows for better social distancing and, therefore, less need for masks. We realize that students and staff will need opportunities to take off their masks. It is unrealistic to expect students and staff to wear face coverings the entire school day. This is why we are encouraging principals and teachers to develop schedules to rotate students from classrooms to outdoor learning spaces throughout the school day. The school district is exploring the need for outdoor shelters such as tents or awnings to provide shade. On days when students are not able to go outside due to the weather, larger spaces like media centers, gymnasiums, or cafeterias will be used.
Students should choose a face covering that they like, fits well, and is comfortable. There are many styles and designs available. Just as many students decorate their backpacks, gym bags, etc., they are encouraged to decorate their face coverings, as long as they meet the following criteria: cannot display, advertise, or promote drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; and, must not display or suggest derogatory and/or inappropriate messages, directly or indirectly.
What about class changes, restroom breaks, or going to lunch? Each time a student moves, he/she will be required to mask up. Once students sit down to eat lunch, obviously they will be allowed to remove their face masks. School principals are working on schedules that allow for social distancing in cafeterias. As mentioned in a previous weekly message, cafeteria tables and other surfaces will be cleaned between lunch mods to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
What if my child has a condition that prevents him/her from wearing a face covering? Students with a documented diagnosis of asthma or other respiratory issue, or medical condition will not wear a face covering; but will be required to wear a face shield that does not restrict breathing. Face coverings are not particularly for the wearer’s protection; but for the protection of others. If your child has a medical condition that prevents a face covering, their medical information on file at the school will need to be updated, but they will still be required a face shield, per recommendations by the Kentucky Department of Education and the KY Department of Health.
We have reviewed many styles of face coverings and worked with Mrs. Stephanie Fryman, Director of the Fleming County Health Department, to ensure that the options outlined in our plan are acceptable. I want to stress that students and staff do not need medical grade masks like the N95 mask or a surgical mask, as those items are still in short supply and intended for use in medical facilities. The face covering options for Fleming County Schools, pictured below will suffice and can be purchased from local and online retailers. The ideal face covering for daily use is made from cloth, which allows for washing. We are recommending that students have a few face coverings, which allows for a clean one to be used each day and keeping an extra one in a backpack or locker. As previously addressed in a virtual parent meeting, the district is committed to providing disposable face coverings for students who need one. We fortunate to have many community members who have already donated cloth masks. If your child has a need for a face covering, please work closely with your school.
What can I do as a parent/guardian right now? You can begin working with your child to find and purchase the type of face covering they prefer to wear (5-7 coverings, preferably washable). Start having your child/children practice wearing a face covering right now. The goal is 45 minutes to an hour at a time. The more we can get students accustomed to wearing a face covering, the less drastic and inconvenient it will be when school resumes. Keep in mind that our plan is to give students and staff periodic breaks throughout the day to lower/remove their face coverings. During this time, students will still be engaged in some form of learning; but they will be in a location which allows them to meet the social distancing requirement. Fleming County Schools will make changes accordingly to accommodate changes issued by state and federal agencies. As of today, face coverings are a requirement, mandated by Governor Beshear, the Kentucky Department of Education, and Kentucky Department of Health, for a school that is operating in traditional format.
As we have communicated, Fleming County Schools has a goal of opening in a traditional format, with the option of a virtual learning platform for students with underlying health conditions or for families that have additional concerns. For these reasons, the Fleming County Schools Board of Education has provided a more flexible admission process for the Fleming County Performance Academy (FCPA).
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at 606-845-5851 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Journey Continues…
Brian K. Creasman
Fleming County Schools