State medical groups offer guidance determining on-site, hybrid and remote learning

The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday accepted a new set of criteria local district officials can use to determine when schools should be open for onsite learning and other activities based on trends in COVID-19 cases. 

The “Kansas School Gating Criteria” document was put together with input from the University of Kansas Pediatrics, Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kansas Department of Health and Environment and education leaders who headed committees that produced KSDE’s Navigating Change guidelines.  

The new medical guidance suggests that the learning model (onsite, hybrid or remote), student activities and access to schools for spectators, visitors, and playgrounds should be determined by considering “gating” criteria and assigns one of four colors for each: green, yellow, orange and red, with red the highest risk level.  

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson emphasized the guidance were recommendations and that the final decisions would be made by school and local officials.  

The gating criteria are: 

Student Absenteeism. Based on school building level of absenteeism compared to the average daily attendance last year, 2019-20 (for example, 95%). Green: absenteeism rate less than 3 percent above last year’s baseline; Yellow: 3-6 percent above last year’s baseline; Orange: 6-9 percent above last year’s baseline; Red: more than 10 percent above last year’s baseline. 

Positive Test Rate. Two-week county percent of positive tests out of all tests performed. Green: equal to or less than 5 percent positive; Yellow: between 5.1 and 9.9 percent; Orange: between 10 and 14.9 percent; Red: equal to or over 15 percent.* 

Incident Rate. Two-week cumulative county incident rate (the number of new cases per 100,000 population). For example, 15 cases in a county of 50,000 would equal 30 cases in a county of 100,000, or one case for a county of 4,000 would equal 25 cases in a county of 100,000. Green: 0-50 new cases per 100,000; Yellow: 51-100 new cases; Orange: 101 to 150 new cases; Red: 151 or more new cases.* 

Trend in Incident Rate. Whether the county incident rate is decreasing, stable or increasing. Green: decreasing; Yellow: stable; Orange: stable; Red: increasing.* 

Local or referring hospital capacity. Green: more than 30 percent capacity; Yellow: more than 20 percent capacity; Orange: more than 10 percent capacity; Red: less than 10 percent capacity at local or referring hospitals. 

*Data available on Kansas Department of Health and Environment COVID information page. 

Based on these criteria, local school leaders can determine an overall risk level by color. The guidance recommends the following learning environments and restrictions based on those factors. 

1) Learning Environment for students 

Green: Onsite allowed for all. 

Yellow: On-site for grades PK-5 and Hybrid (part time onsite, part time remote) for 6-12. 

Orange: Hybrid for grades PK-5 and Remote Only for 6-12 

Red: All grades Remote Only. 

2) School Activities 

Green: Onsite following Navigating Change guidelines. Facilities should limit capacity to allow for six-foot social distance. 

Yellow: No “all school” activities. Small group activities limited, masks and social distancing required, stable groups with limited numbers. No high-risk activities. No group travel, conditioning/practice may continue with modifications. 

Orange and Red: remote only. 

3) Spectators and Audience 

Green: Onsite following Navigating Change guidelines. Facilities should limit capacity to allow for six-foot social distance. 

Yellow: Allowed. Distancing by household groups; masked if indoors. 6’ social distancing required; total group numbers limited per guidelines. 

Orange and Red: Remote only. 

4) Visitor Access 

Green: Onsite following Navigating Change guidelines. Facilities should limit capacity to allow for six-foot social distance. 

Yellow: Limited, by appointment. Masks and social distancing required; building access requirements must be met. 

Orange: Extremely limited, by appointment. Masks and social distancing required; building access requirements must be met. 

Red: None allowed. 

5) Playgrounds 

Green: Onsite following Navigating Change guidelines. Facilities should limit capacity to allow for six-foot social distance. 

Yellow: Open. Capacity to allow for 6’ social distancing; total group numbers limited per guidelines. 

Orange: Open. Capacity to allow for 6’ social distancing; masks required if less than 6’ social distance maintained; total group numbers limited per guidelines. 

Red: Closed. 

All of these recommendations are subject to change based on actions of federal, state, county and local authorities. 

The guidance also offers strategies to consider to promote full time onsite learning for K-5 students: 

Students should be grouped together in cohorts of less than 15 students per group.  

  1. Either have class sizes with less than 15 students per class, 
  2. OR have separate cohorts within classes of less than 15 students per cohort with adequate physical distancing between cohorts and no mixing of groups other than the teacher.

Safe but unused facilities within the district and community should be utilized to spread out students. 

  1. Middle and high school buildings should be utilized when those students are learning remotely. 
  2. Sports and recreation facilities should be utilized when otherwise not in use. 
  3. Outside areas should be utilized weather permitting. 
  4. Schools should work with their community to utilize additional community locations to space out students for on-site education. This may include community buildings, churches, restaurants, etc. 
  5. Locations should be consistent between classes/cohorts. 

Nurses, special education teachers, administrators, and other staff should work in teams and be prepared to travel between sites as needed to provide services.  

KASB will provide an overview of the guidance at noon Wednesday (Aug. 12) during its Board Leadership “Lunch and Learn” forum on Zoom. The session is open to all KASB member boards of education and district leaders. There is no registration fee, however, pre-registration is required to received access to the online sessions via Zoom. Here is a link to register. 

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