Editor’s Note: This is an update of a previously published story.
Kentucky public schools will remain closed for the rest of the year to in-person instruction.
Gov. Andy Beshear made the official announcement during his Monday afternoon briefing. Beshear informed school superintendents during a group call earlier on Monday, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Students will continue their education at home through distance learning plans. State education officials will work with school districts to finish distance learning by the end of May, although some could finish earlier.
The governor said seniors being able to attend either a prom or graduation this year was “unlikely.”
“I know for many this is hard,” said Beshear, who said his son was set to graduate elementary school.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “This shouldn’t have to be asked of you, but it is.”
At the briefing, Beshear was asked about the possibility of holding a graduation ceremony as long as everyone practices social distancing.
“We’re looking at virtual options,” the governor said. He said a drive-in ceremony was also a possibility. He called on the public to offer solutions.
“I look forward to all the creativity we will see,” Beshear said.
The majority of schools across the nation have closed their classrooms until next year as states take action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
More than 600,000 Kentucky students have been out of school since mid-March, when Beshear first recommended closures, which were first extended to April 20 then to May 1.
In addition, Kentucky has canceled standardized testing scheduled for May. Other tests typically held in May, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, have been moved online or canceled, according to the Courier-Journal.
Will Begley, superintendent at Burgin Independent Schools, and Dennis Davis, superintendent for Mercer County Schools, said they were not surprised by the governor’s announcement.
Begley said Burgin students are responding well to distance learning.
“Our kids are doing fantastic,” he said. “We are fortunate that all of our kids, 4th through 12th grade, have take home devices. They have responded to the challenge and are engaged everyday with their teachers. Our teachers are using the platform Zoom and Google Classroom to deliver their content. I have heard some really great stories on the teaching and learning that is taking place.”
Burgin teachers have Apple MacBook Air laptops and iPads and the Apple Pencil, Begley said.
“Having this technology and the training along with it has certainly made this stretch of NTI a little more engaging for our kids,” he said. “I am sure they will tell you that NTI fatigue is setting in. It is much harder to deliver instruction this way. Our teachers and staff miss all our kids desperately. We hate it that they have been robbed of all the springtime activities they are used to. I feel for our seniors especially. I have a senior at home as well and the idea of no prom, no senior trip, no last day of school is tough.”
At Mercer, Davis said some students are working online while others are working on paper copies of the provided materials.
“We know that it isn’t perfect but with this format and our technological abilities, we are able to provide some solid academic experiences,” he said. “We see great examples every week of kids doing some real innovative things, participating more and more in online classroom meetings and learning to communicate with their teachers through various platforms. Everyone is trying to make the best of an unprecedented situation.”
That includes Mercer’s teachers, Davis said.
“We have teachers posting videos of themselves getting their lessons together for their students; others are sharing online videos of themselves teaching or of resources online to make sure students have access to the content. We also have many classes holding class virtually. Teachers are making phone calls to the students who do not have online access. Teachers are working very hard to reach all their students.”
It’s a difficult situation, and Davis said he’s glad staff and students are working together to make the best of it.
“As much as we miss our students and staff, we understand that these recommendations were made following the guidance of healthcare officials who are trying to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and ultimately keep our students and staff safe,” he said.