School & District Management

In Kentucky, 4 Counties Close Schools Over COVID and a New Law Halts Learning for Some

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader — August 26, 2021 4 min read
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In one of the longest school shutdowns in Kentucky this academic year due to COVID-19, Lee County Public Schools has closed until Sept. 7, with no learning this week.

Superintendent Sarah Wasson is among the school leaders in the state asking lawmakers to take some action to fix a state law passed in 2021 that limits the number of nontraditional instruction or learning-from-home days a district can use.

Wasson told families in a message Wednesday that learning from home will begin Monday. There will be no virtual learning Thursday and Friday.

Wasson said the district has had two more staff and at least five students test positive.

“We are going to close school for all instruction, virtual and in-person, the next two days. This Thursday and Friday there is no school for students districtwide. Next week, we will have virtual learning or NTI packets for every student, " she said. “The case count in Lee County is still very high and the cases are impacting our staff to the point where we can’t function to the best of our ability.”

In-season sports and band, volleyball, golf, and cross country will be allowed to continue practicing and playing, but the district will not have fans at indoor volleyball games.

Some parents want to continue in-person learning, and some have voiced concerns that the district needs to shut down, the superintendent said.

Wasson said she hopes stopping in-person learning for 12 days helps slow the spread of the virus and determines who might be positive from the recent quarantines.

When the district reopens, officials will implement routine screening to help find the positive cases more quickly and keep kids in school.

Other districts have closed to stop the virus. Knott County Schools are shut down through Friday.

“Knott County continues to have a very high COVID incidence rating. After careful consideration regarding student and staff safety, it is our responsibility to take further measures to prevent and mitigate the COVID outbreak we have been experiencing,” district officials said in a letter to families.

Leslie County schools officials said in a social media post that due to an increase in COVID cases in schools and additional class quarantines, school will be canceled through Friday. Those will not be nontraditional instruction days but will be made up later in the year.

After the death of an assistant football coach from COVID and the quarantine of 400 students, Greenup County Schools has shut down Thursday and Friday. Superintendent Traysea Moresea said she hopes state lawmakers will give the school district more learn-from-home days so that some students can learn in-person and some from home until the latest surge in cases improves.

Officials: New Ky. law leaves schools no choice but to close

A new state law passed by the General Assembly in 2021 only gives school districts 10 days of non-traditional instruction that they don’t have to make up. The law was intended to avoid the months of remote learning that Kentucky experienced during the pandemic that began in March 2020. Last school year, districts had unlimited at-home learning.

While state and education officials say they are committed to in-person learning, several superintendents say the recent surge of the coronavirus left them no choice but to close.

Consequently, some superintendents and parents are asking state lawmakers to act, allowing more remote learning days and more flexibility.

After the 10 days are used, “we must make up all days missed at the end of the year and on our spring break week. Having the flexibility to go to virtual learning districtwide would take legislative action and we are trying to communicate the need to our legislators,” said Wasson.

“The expectation for public schools is to have in-person learning, which is what we very much want to do. We wanted to have in-person learning last year as well, but there were times when switching to virtual learning was a better option for a time period,” she said.

Wasson urged people who want the option of virtual instruction when cases spike to ask lawmakers, including Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, for help through legislation.

Owsley County Superintendent Tim Bobrowski said Wednesday that his district shut down with no learning Aug. 19. He planned to reopen Thursday morning to in-person learning, but hopes lawmakers will provide more at-home learning days.

Thirty-two percent of his small district’s high school students and 15 percent of elementary students are quarantined. Seventeen high school students and seven elementary students have tested positive.

Stivers, of Manchester, acknowledged this week that the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the Kentucky School Boards Association had reached out for help.

No decision had been made as of Thursday morning.

Copyright (c) 2021, Lexington Herald-Leader. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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