Lawmakers get insight on flexibility given school districts on buses

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Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, participating in Tuesday's hearing.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Last month, the Interim Joint Committee on Education heard testimony from educators advocating for clearer guidelines and more flexibility and autonomy when it comes to reopening schools.

Tuesday, the Kentucky Department of Education leaders shared their COVID-19 transportation guidelines with committee members for schools that grant individual school districts flexibility.

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“We are encouraging districts to use a good faith effort to use that social distancing where it is feasible and practical to do so,” said Robin Kinney, associate commissioner for KDE.

KDE worked with the Kentucky Department for Public Health and used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when drafting its guidelines for Kentucky schools, according to Kinney’s presentation.

Taking many factors into consideration, such as school district size and finances, social distancing with one child per seat every other seat is ideal, Kinney said. However, for districts where this is a challenge, other mitigating strategies can be used if bus capacity cannot be kept low.

Those mitigation strategies include requiring students to wear masks, check their temperatures prior to boarding the bus and using hand sanitizer, according to Kinney’s presentation.

Loading buses from back to front if possible as well as cleaning the buses between uses is also recommended. Assigned seating is also recommended in the event a child on a bus tests positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing is needed, Kinney said.

“It will really be a district decision,” Kinney said.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said he appreciated the flexibility the districts have in implementing the transportation guidelines.

“I just appreciate the flexibility in this and recognizing every school system is different and we have unique challenges,” Meredith said.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, expressed concerns about how struggling school districts will be able to afford to implement the guidelines.

Kinney said Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds the school districts received can be used to offset the cost.