Lawmakers set March 29 deadline for Kentucky schools to reopen

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, March 4, 2021

Kentucky lawmakers set a late March deadline for schools to resume in-person instruction under a pandemic-related bill that won final passage Thursday.

The legislation requires that in-person classes resume by March 29. The House accepted changes made by the Senate and then voted 81-15 to send the measure to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Republican Rep. Regina Huff, the bill’s lead sponsor, said it reflects the priority that students have “face-to-face contact” with teachers in class.

Under the bill, school districts would need to offer, at least, a hybrid schedule where students attend in-person classes at least two days a week and classes are held at least four days a week. Districts would still offer virtual learning for children when parents request it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the legislation progressed, lawmakers acknowledged getting pressure from some parents wanting schools to return to classes five days a week.

Huff said the vast majority of Kentucky school districts will offer in-person instruction four or five days a week by March 29, with decisions pending in some other districts.

Democratic Rep. Tina Bojanowski said it’s time to “nudge” districts to reopen classes.

“We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for a year,” she said. “We’re going to have to learn how to live with it. And sometimes we’re going to have to make that step and open the schools.”

The measure also features a number of temporary, technical changes to state regulations meant to give school districts added flexibility to operate amid the pandemic.

Beshear recently issued an executive order encouraging Kentucky schools to return students to in-person learning in March. The executive order recommended that districts begin offering in-person learning by March 1, unless teachers and school staff still need vaccinations. In that case, the order recommends that schools offer in-person learning seven days after staff and teachers receive their final dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Huff offered clear expectations for school districts when looking ahead to the next academic year.

“This bill fully expects students to return to the classroom full-time, across the board next year,” she said during the House debate Thursday.