Sounding an alarm about escalating coronavirus cases, Gov. Andy Beshear asked schools Monday to delay the start of in-person classes until the third week of August, which could impact the reopening plans of local schools.
“By waiting until the third week of August, we believe it gives us a chance to get this thing under better control. … My concern is that if schools start before this when we’re seeing an escalation of the virus we’ll see cases in schools,” Beshear said Monday.
Beshear pointed to an increase in the state’s overall infection rate. His recommendation to school districts Monday also came with an order to close bars across the state and to reduce restaurant capacity to 25%.
While he acknowledged the need to reopen schools for students, Beshear said doing that safely won’t be possible with an unchecked surge in virus cases.
“If we see a lot of early cases in schools, it will be harder to get all of our schools open for in-person classes,” he said. “It’s hard to argue we have a safe environment when our cases overall are escalating.”
Any changes to a district’s school calendar ultimately require approval by its local board of education.
Warren County Public Schools plans to open for in-person instruction Aug. 12, while the Bowling Green Independent School District is aiming for an Aug. 10 reopening date, albeit with its schools at half-capacity and students on alternating schedules for the first 10 days. Both districts are offering online academies for students who opt-in to them.
Following Beshear’s recommendation, local superintendents are conferring with their school boards.
“Superintendent (Rob) Clayton plans to discuss Gov. Beshear’s recommendation with the Warren County Board of Education to determine the district’s next steps,” WCPS tweeted in a statement after Beshear’s announcement Monday.
Bowling Green schools Superintendent Gary Fields is also conferring with the district’s board and said it could take action this week.
“We will have to amend our calendar,” Fields said. “I anticipate a special meeting this week.”
Beshear’s announcement wasn’t a complete surprise to school superintendents, Fields said. Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown recently asked superintendents to delay reopening their schools for in-person classes until after Aug. 15, according to media reports.
That said, Fields wasn’t sure if delaying the return of in-person instruction by one week would help.
“I’m having a hard time understanding what is going to be so dramatically different,” he said Tuesday.
Fields said he understands that many parents want their children to be back in school and said the district’s goal is to make a decision about the start of school that will not require revisiting. In-person instruction is also ideal when it comes to addressing any learning gaps that may have been worsened while students have been out of their classrooms, Fields said.
“We understand that everybody’s counting on us,” he said, adding the district’s goal is to offer parents “as firm of a start date as we can.”
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.