LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the final hours of summer vacation tick away in Fayette County, teachers and administrators are making their final preparations for the 2022-2023 school year.
In a letter to parents, the school district said that since they anticipate Covid will stick around, they're figuring out how to integrate dealing with it, rather than focusing on daily or weekly numbers. They're no longer going to mandate mask-wearing, but are encouraging people to follow public health guidance.
"There's no excitement like back-to-school excitement!" said Taylor Roden, a first-grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary.
Just like the majority of Kentucky counties, Fayette County is in the red for community levels of Covid-19. The district's policies will be different this year. Because of those community levels, they recommend masking indoors, but will not mandate it. They also encourage but don't mandate vaccination against Covid-19. While numbers are still high, the district says vaccine and anti-viral medications give them the tools they need to enter a new phase. Teachers like Roden are optimistic.
"Last year, we were able to maintain in-person all year, so I'm very, very hopeful this year, but let me tell you, if we do go, teachers are ready. We made it work before and we'll make it work again," she said.
Another change this year will be the addition of eight more school resource officers. The Kentucky Legislature passed a law in 2022 requiring an armed officer at every school in the state. Fayette County is working toward that goal. They now have 78 officers on staff. Some of the district's 70 schools have multiple officers, so they don't have every school covered just yet. They have a waiver from the state while they work toward a full staff.
Fayette County Public Schools Police Chief Martin Schafer says their goal is to direct students toward other resources, rather than have law enforcement be the first option.
"Many times, as long as everyone is safe, we can slow down and pull in the appropriate resources, whether that be a district mental health professional, a school psychologist," Schafer said.