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Kentucky Schools Asked to Stay Closed Through May 1

From the Kentucky Department of Education:

In a teleconference call April 2 with Kentucky’s public school superintendents, Gov. Andy Beshear recommended that all Kentucky schools continue their suspension of in-person classes through May 1 to help control the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in communities across the state.

All 172 Kentucky school districts, 53 area technology centers, Kentucky School for the Blind and Kentucky School for the Deaf ceased in-person classes and began instituting non-traditional instruction in response to a previous recommendation made by Beshear.

Beshear told superintendents that he is recommending additional time be added to the closure period that began March 16.

“As you may have seen, the president has extended his recommendation for social distancing through the end of April,” Beshear said. “Because of that … I’m recommending that our superintendents extend this policy of no in-person class instruction at least through the end of Friday, May 1.”

At its March 18 meeting, the Kentucky Board of Education approved waivers that allowed all 172 Kentucky school districts to join the Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program, which allows education to continue even if school buildings are closed.

Beshear said his hope is to reevaluate the situation again in mid-April to determine if schools should continue operating the NTI Program through the remainder of the school year.

“What I ask of each of you, to the extent that you can, keep providing those meals and I would strongly suggest that you continue the NTI through that period,” Beshear said to Kentucky’s superintendents.

“I want to thank each of you for being leaders throughout this difficult time – you have risen to the occasion and have continued to provide meals, provide enrichment for our children,” he said. “While NTI will never take the place of an in-class experience and while I know it’s hard to reach all students with it, at a time where our young people need structure and need intellectual challenge, you all are doing a critical and important role each and every day.”

Beshear told superintendents that as of Thursday, they should not plan for schools to be closed for the rest of the school year. However, if Kentucky still hasn’t flattened the curve by May 1, he would strongly consider making that suggestion.

“I like to be transparent. It is a very real possibility,” he said. “When we hit May 1, or before leading up to that, that may be my recommendation.”

This additional time will give Kentucky’s healthcare professionals a chance to watch how the virus is unfolding. In the meantime, Beshear strongly encouraged any educator that can work from home to continue to do so.

“If there are things like meal preparation and if there are things that absolutely have to be done in the school, that’s OK, but we can’t be saying that everybody needs to come in and report every day,” said Beshear.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown echoed the importance of extending the closure period, which affects approximately 650,000 public school students who attend classes in 1,466 schools.

“Decisions like these are not taken lightly,” Brown said. “These steps that we must take to limit areas where large groups of people gather are absolutely necessary to help limit the spread of COVID-19 among all Kentucky residents, and especially among our state’s most at-risk groups.”

From an education standpoint, Brown said the extended closures have required a shift in thinking about “how we do things, both for our schools and for our districts, as well as at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).”

“Our focus at KDE is now three-fold – educate, feed and support. We are committed to providing guidance and solutions that focus on educating and feeding our children and providing support to our districts,” he said.

Brown thanked Kentucky’s superintendents for their cooperation throughout this process and encouraged them to continue to be leaders in their communities on social distancing.

“We’re continuing to see some pockets of congregating – particularly among middle school and high school students,” he said. “I would just ask our superintendents to work with your principals to try and get that messaging out there as well to discourage students from congregating together. That shouldn’t be occurring.”

Brown previously advised superintendents to ask their schools to prepare enough non-traditional instructional materials for a six-week period that would extend from the beginning of the closure period to May 1, including a one-week spring break.

“We have some districts that are really being creative with how they are delivering paper packets to kids who don’t have internet access,” said Brown. “One example is districts are using old newspaper boxes. They have the packets in there and parents can pick them up at a staggered time and reduce contact.”

Brown recommends that when considering these creative solutions to reduce contacts within districts, first consult with a local health department because there may be health and safety protocols that will need to be implemented.

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