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Kentucky Releases New Guidance Addressing Student Travel During COVID-19

New Kentucky guidance provides recommendations and school district considerations should they choose to take students on trips or organize large student gatherings.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released guidance regarding all student transportation last Sept. 4 that called for safety protocols to be followed on all school buses to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including masks, temperature checks, sanitation and limited seating when possible.

The KDE Interim “Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools” released on Dec. 7, included a safety expectation that schools must “[c]ancel field trips, assemblies, and other large group activities to avoid mixing students in large common areas.” The guidance states that schools must also adhere to safety expectations as set forth by the Kentucky Department of Health (DPH).

Kentucky DPH revised the guidance a week later stating that if people choose to travel out of state, a 14-day self-quarantine is recommended upon returning to the state.

The latest guidance released on Feb. 16 states that the KDE no longer prohibits school-related student travel and trips, provided they include a limited number of students and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The guidance continues, “It is KDE’s position that school-related student trips — in Kentucky and out-of-state — are inadvisable until vaccinations are widespread.”

The KDE advised that schools should consider the following factors and risks, among others, before taking students on school-related trips.

  • COVID-19 case rates in the district and the destination community at the time of travel.
  • Possibility of pre-travel testing of students and staff for COVID-19.
  • Ability to ensure social distancing, proper hand sanitation and masking during the duration of the trip.
  • Contingency plans if a student, staff member or parent tests positive for COVID-19 during the trip, which may affect return travel and require quarantining.
  • Maintaining limits on social gatherings of students, staff and parents to prevent the exposure and the spread of COVID-19.
  • Planning for special accommodations for students with disabilities and how those will be implemented in accordance with safety standards.

“Because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the ongoing impact of the virus and its variants, any travel plans should be made with the understanding that travel cancellations will be a very real possibility for months to come,” the guidance adds.

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