FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The union for Kentucky’s teachers said Friday that the state’s public schools should not resume in-person instruction until COVID-19 positivity rates at state and county levels fall and stay below the 4% level.
In a lengthy statement, the KEA, a group of nearly 42,000 educators statewide, said the COVID-19 pandemic is worse now than when schools closed in early spring.
“By every objective measure, and without public schools being open at all during the last few months, the coronavirus situation in Kentucky at this moment is far worse than it was in March,” the Kentucky Education Association said in a statement. “If we all believed it wasn't safe to operate schools then, how can it possibly be safe to reopen now?”
In the statement, the KEA said schools should not resume in-person instruction until the infection rate for both the state and the county in which a school district is located “fall below 4% and both remain below 4% for 21 consecutive days as measured by a 7-day rolling average."
"Districts must also consider other factors unique to their own communities, such as the infection rate among school-aged children and whether the Department of Public Health supports their reopening plan," the KEA said.
"Doing anything else is simply irresponsible,” the teachers union said. "Even when those benchmarks are met, school districts that plan to reopen to in-person instruction must implement appropriate, comprehensive mitigation procedures, most continue to offer virtual instruction to families that request it, must accommodate staff members who are at high risk or who live with a person at high risk, and must be read to return entirely to virtual instruction if the state or county metrics requite it.”
Kentucky's positivity rate for COVID-19 tests was 5.57% on Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear said. It has been several weeks since the positivity rate was lower than 4%.
Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said the governor's office has spoken with the KEA and its members.
“This is an education first administration that recognizes and understands the concerns of our hardworking educators, and would never advocate for them to be put in harm’s way,” Staley said. “Next week, we will be providing additional commentary on how and when we believe it will be safe to resume in-person classes.”
Beshear's administration has released guidelines for returning teachers and students that includes masking in class and unlimited virtual learning days. In response to questions though the governor said he would prefer that schools delay in-class instruction.