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County schools delay start of school
 07.30.20

Answering a request from Gov. Andy Beshear, Warren County Public Schools revised its start date Thursday, settling on Aug. 24 for the beginning of in-person and online classes.

“Our plan is to move forward on Aug. 24,” Superintendent Rob Clayton said, adding that could also include a virtual start for all students if the coronavirus crisis continues to worsen.

“In the event that COVID-19 cases continue to rise … then we’ll start all virtual,” he said.

The revised school calendar the district’s school board approved Thursday also includes several distance learning days for students who choose in-person instruction, with the first such day Aug. 28. Other distance learning dates include Sept. 8, Oct. 2, Nov. 2, Dec. 14, Jan. 19, Feb. 16 and April 2.

The decision came after Beshear asked schools across the state Monday to delay reopening for in-person instruction until the third week of August at the earliest. On Wednesday, both BGISD and Warren County Public Schools answered that call in a joint statement.

“It is the intent of BGISD and WCPS to delay the start to the 2020-21 school year, and both anticipate a proposed start date of August 24, 2020, for virtual and in-person classes. It is also the intent of both districts to provide in-person classes as soon as permitted for the thousands of families in our community that have requested that option and depend on our schools to serve their children,” the school districts announced.

The Bowling Green Independent School District took similar action Wednesday, with its school board voting to delay the start of in-person and online classes until Aug. 24 at the earliest. However, the district left open the option of all students starting remotely Aug. 24 if public health guidelines change amid rising coronavirus cases.

BGISD students who choose to attend school in-person will do so on alternating schedules between Monday and Thursday for the first two weeks, before schools fully reopen Sept. 8. Fridays during that two-week period will be given over to distance learning.

Warren County Public Schools has offered its students the choice of either in-person or online instruction through a virtual academy that will require students to commit for one semester. However, many students have yet to specify their preference, which Clayton said impedes planning and staff assignments.

“We can’t officially begin planning until we know where the vast majority of our students are going to land in terms of in-person or the virtual academy,” Clayton said. “What that does is it challenges our principals in making these staffing decisions. So as we sit right now, July 30, our schools have not been able to assign their staff with confidence because again there’s that many intent forms that are out there.”

Clayton hoped that by delaying the start of school, the district might have more time to urge parents to register, which they can do online at warrencounty schools.org.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.


Brandon Hammer walks in his individual graduation ceremony at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College to receive his Associate's degree in Applied Sciences for Industrial Maintenance from Dr. Phil Neal, left, and other professors on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Approximately 120 students out of nearly 800 graduates have arrived at the college this week to walk in their individual graduations and receive their diplomas. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)


Donnie Strauss (right) picks up his degree Thursday from President Phillip Neal at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.


Beshear says Kentucky might be leveling off virus cases
 07.30.20

FRANKFORT – Gov. Andy Beshear reported an uptick in coronavirus cases Thursday but signaled that the outbreak might be leveling off after surging infections hit the state this month.

The state posted 659 new virus cases, up 40 cases from Wednesday. Total statewide cases surpassed 29,300 since the pandemic began.

The state’s positivity rate – a closely watched barometer reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 – was 5.66%, which was down from a day earlier, Beshear said Thursday.

While Kentucky remains in a “danger zone” in fighting the virus, recent daily numbers indicate the state has significantly slowed the spike in cases from earlier in July, he said.

“We believe what we are generally seeing is a leveling off or at least a significant decrease in the overall escalation of the virus,” the governor said.

Kentucky had seven more virus-related deaths reported Thursday, raising the death count to 731.

Daily virus cases are expected to level off before the numbers decrease, Beshear said.

“It’s my hope that this is where we are, but if it is, it’s only because we’re being really diligent,” he said.

The Democratic governor continued to stress compliance with his mask mandate – one of several steps he’s taken since the number of cases escalated.

Beshear said it’s probable that he will extend his requirement that most people wear masks in public. A 30-day mandate was issued earlier in July.

“I would guess that it would be at least another 30 days after that,” he said.

But he indicated that mask wearing could become an expectation for much longer than that.

“We ought to be ready to wear facial coverings in certain situations until either we get this thing really far down and there’s some reason that we think that it’s not going to come back, or even a vaccine,” he said. “But if we know that something is protecting us and keeping our economy open, we ought to be ready to do it.”

Beshear this week ordered Kentucky bars to close and restaurants to scale back indoor service to combat the virus. He recently reduced the number of people allowed at social gatherings from 50 to 10. That rule doesn’t apply to businesses or wedding venues. He’s also urging Kentuckians to avoid traveling to states hardest hit by the virus.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have been added to Kentucky’s contact tracing efforts.

Nearly 900 people are involved in contact tracing in the state, almost doubling the work force since May 1, said Mark Carter, who was hired to oversee the efforts.

The state could add nearly 290 more people based on the availability of federal funding, he said.

“At the rate that we’re going, and if we continue to see the infection at the level that it’s at currently, I suspect by mid-September we’ll probably be at a full complement of people,” Carter said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some – especially older adults and people with existing health problems – it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.

Local cases

The Barren River District Health Department reported 3,546 cases in the region Thursday, with 81 deaths.

The breakdown by cases/deaths by county was Barren, 287, 2; Butler, 284, 15; Edmonson, 92, 12; Hart, 93, 0; Logan, 301, 22; Metcalfe, 43, 2; Simpson, 136, 6; and Warren, 2,310, 22.

The Allen County Health Department reported 214 cases and eight deaths.


News
SKYCTC honors grads with individualized commencement ceremonies
 07.31.20

Strolling up to collect his degree Thursday at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, graduate Donnie Strauss took in the soaring highs of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” and savored the moment.

Strauss never could have anticipated graduating amid a deadly virus pandemic, but after juggling work and school to earn his advanced manufacturing degree, nothing was going to steal his shine. Strauss listened as his academic honors were read aloud, accepted his diploma and posed while a camera snapped away.

It made for an intimate ceremony. Strauss was accompanied by just one guest and a small group of campus staff, all of whom wore face masks and made sure to keep a healthy distance from one another. It was an experience Strauss shared with about 120 participating graduates this week at SKYCTC’s Bowling Green campus.

The personalized commencement ceremony was the kind of experience Strauss has come to expect from SKYCTC, one that centers his needs as a student. He credits his instructors, namely Brian Sparks and Tony Keen, for getting to know him not just as a pupil, but as a person.

“I really can’t say enough about them. … They’re very knowledgeable in their area of expertise,” said Strauss, a Nicholasville native.

He recalled how his instructors took the time to meet with him after class and described SKYCTC’s advanced manufacturing experience as an “excellent program (with) great instructors. I would definitely recommend it.”

For SKYCTC President Phillip Neal, it was a way to offer a bookend for a school year like no other.

“We did want to bring some closure for our students and their families,” Neal said, adding the priority was to do so in a way that “kept everyone safe and healthy.”

Throughout the week, SKYCTC has recognized graduates from different campus divisions.

On Thursday, the focus was on SKYCTC’s advanced manufacturing students, while Friday’s ceremonies will honor allied health graduates. All told, the college has conferred more than 800 degrees this year.

SKYCTC is gearing up for an Aug. 17 reopening when two-thirds of its classes will be taught on campus, albeit with a hybrid model that blends in-person and online learning. Neal said SKYCTC is redesigning its classrooms to comply with public health guidelines. Students will be expected to wear masks and conduct health checks at home before coming to class. While classes are held, the campus will implement meticulous cleaning procedures and regularly disinfect classrooms.

The current moment, however, is about celebrating students’ accomplishments, which are all the more impressive given that many have jobs and families to take care of while they pursue degrees.

“We’re very proud of our students,” he said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.


Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton speaks to media Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, at the district’s Transportation Department.


News
Ex-teacher arrested again on sex charges involving same juvenile
 07.30.20

A former Barren County Middle School teacher, who was already under indictment on allegations of improper sexual contact with a student, was arrested again after law enforcement learned he reportedly resumed contact with the same juvenile after being released on bond.

William Kyle Gardner, 28, of Horse Cave, was arrested Wednesday night by the Barren County Sheriff’s Office on charges of first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor (illegal sex act, victim less than 16 years of age), intimidating a participant in the legal process and prohibited use of electronic communication systems to procure a minor, according to an arrest citation.

Gardner was arrested last year after the sheriff’s office investigated a 13-year-old student’s allegations that Gardner had sexual contact with the juvenile on multiple occasions. That investigation led to Gardner’s arrest on 13 criminal counts, including three counts of second-degree rape, five counts of first-degree sexual abuse, tampering with physical evidence, three counts of first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor and prohibited use of electronic communications systems to procure a minor.

Authorities went on to dismiss the rape, sexual abuse and evidence tampering charges, and a grand jury in Barren County indicted Gardner last year on the remaining counts of unlawful transaction with a minor and illegally using electronic communications. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, and the case is pending in Barren Circuit Court.

On Wednesday, BCSO Detective Adam Bow received a call that Gardner – who court records show had been released in April from the Barren County Detention Center in Glasgow on a $75,000 property bond – had been having contact with the juvenile after being released from jail, according to the arrest citation.

Though Gardner had been court-ordered to not have contact with the alleged victim, Bow said in the arrest citation that he learned Wednesday that Gardner had reportedly been in the area of the juvenile’s address the night before, and that the two had gone to the Horse Cave Motel in Hart County about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Bow reviewed surveillance video footage from the hotel that appeared to show Gardner leaving the hotel for some time before returning in his vehicle with the juvenile.

“Gardner exited the vehicle with the juvenile victim,” Bow said in the arrest citation. “They then entered the room that Gardner had rented. They stayed in the room around an hour. They then exited the room and Gardner returned to the area of the victim’s residence.”

The juvenile was interviewed at the Barren River Child Advocacy Center, telling authorities that she had sex with Gardner at the hotel and had been picked up by him in another county three times, police records show.

“The victim stated that Gardner had talked to her about the other case and told her not to testify against him in that case,” the arrest citation said. “The victim stated that they began communicating again after he got out of jail in April. The victim stated that Gardner had sent her photos of him nude.”

Gardner was set to be arraigned Thursday in Barren District Court on the new charges. He is in the Barren County jail under a $150,000 cash bond.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.