In a teleconference call Friday with Kentucky’s public school superintendents, Gov. Andy Beshear recommended that all Kentucky schools continue their suspension of in-person classes through April 17 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 closed this week in response to a recommendation made by Beshear on March 12 that school facilities close for at least two weeks.
Beshear told superintendents that he is recommending an additional two weeks be added to the closure period that began March 16. For most districts, that period would now include four weeks of instruction and a one-week spring break before they would reopen April 20.
“What we’re seeing nationally and what we’re seeing in Kentucky is escalating cases. It is more important now than ever that we engage in social distancing. And while kids seem to be resilient to the virus, they can certainly get it and they can spread it,” Beshear said during the conference call.
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.
“This is in the best interest of our students and their families, the teachers and staff members who serve and everyone in the Commonwealth,” Brown said. “The governor and his administration are continuing to do all he can to slow the spread of this virus in our communities, and one of the most important elements at this time is social distancing, which simply isn’t realistic when schools are open.”
All school districts are utilizing the Kentucky Department of Education’s Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program to ensure that educational services continue during the closure period.
Brown said he has 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.
Beshear noted that while preparing additional NTI materials may require teachers to return to school buildings, they should continue to practice effective social distancing by avoiding gatherings or by staggering the times when they are in their buildings.
“Let’s make sure … that we are not unnecessarily creating a crowd in our schools,” he said.
Brown also encouraged the state’s superintendents to continue to be leaders in modeling social distancing in their schools and communities.
“They have responded in a great way,” he said.
In addition, Brown said he will apply to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) as soon as tonight for a waiver that would allow Kentucky schools to bypass federally mandated testing for the 2019-2020 school year.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that USED will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency.
Beshear told superintendents his administration would take any measures possible to support schools and districts during the closure period.
“I can tell you I will do everything in my power and under my emergency powers to try to make our school systems as whole as we can throughout this,” he said.