Beshear wants schools to reopen this week

Clark County schools scheduled to return March 15

SUN STAFF REPORT

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said last week he would issue an executive order that recommends all school districts, including private schools, offer or expand some form of in-person instructional opportunities beginning March 1 or within seven days after teachers and other school employees have received their second shots of the COVID-19 vaccines.

In an interview Sunday morning with Margaret Brennan of CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Beshear said his administration has made getting students back in school safely a priority, and so he moved teachers to near the front of the line for vaccinations, ahead of some other essential workers.

“We’re about to be the first state to fully vaccinate all of our educators,” he said. “We have all but about seven districts back to some form of in-person.”

And he said the state has “a commitment from all the remaining districts to get that done” as well.

He said it builds confidence in teachers and students alike.

“I’m not just a governor, I’m a dad of a middle schooler and an elementary school student, so I’ve seen the impact this has,” he said.

Clark County Public Schools recently returned to A-B hybrid learning, with students going to classes two days a week and being instructed online three days a week. They are expected to return to full in-person learning March 15.

Currently, CCPS students are seated six feet apart and required to wear masks while in school.

On Saturday, the Clark County Health Department administered the second doses of the Moderna vaccine to about 700 teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, coaches and other employees of public and private schools.

Several of the teachers said they were relieved to get the vaccine and to get back to the classrooms with their students.

Some members of the Clark County Education Association, however, have expressed concerns about returning to in-person learning.

Clark County is still in the orange category in terms of infections, as most inner Bluegrass counties are except for Jessamine and Scott, which are still in the critical or red category. Orange means there are 10 to 25 new cases per 100,000 population.

For the entire state, COVID-19 cases last week declined for the seventh consecutive week.

“What we foresaw is that the safest way to expand in-person opportunities is to vaccinate all of our school personnel,” Beshear said in a press release last week. “Since then, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have moved that way, and other states have followed our lead.”

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) issued a comprehensive, 136-page manual, KDE COVID-19 Guidance 2.0, which will assist with the shift back into school buildings.

“Kentucky continues to be a national leader in vaccinating our school staff, and getting our kids back in the classroom safely remains a top priority for every Kentuckian — from the governor to our littlest learners,” she said. “With this guidance, we hope to make the transition back to in-person learning as smooth and safe as possible.”

Coleman said the manual advises schools on planning school-related student travel; administering spring state testing; operating schools after teachers and staff are vaccinated; assessing knowledge gaps caused by the pandemic’s impact on learning; and using second-round Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding.