Keeping children away from school isn't the best way to educate them, but it is the best way to keep them and their families safe from the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, area school officials say.
With that in mind, all six school districts in Boyd and Greenup County have extended the suspension of in-person classes until at least April 20.
Governor Andy Beshear recommended the extension Friday in a teleconference with superintendents.
The officials also approve of the U.S. Department of Education's offer to waive accountability testing requirements for the academic year.
Doing so will not affect students and their studies, and will eliminate one stressful component of an already stress-filled time, they say.
“For now, closing is probably best for the health and safety of everyone in the commonwealth. It's about flattening the curve,” said Boyd County Superintendent Bill Boblett.
Flattening the curve refers to slowing the onslaught of the virus by minimizing physical contact between people.
“It obviously makes educating students more difficult, but I do agree with (Beshear) and what he is trying to do. We just have to be creative in instructing and feeding our kids,” Greenup Superintendent Traysea Moresea said.
That means, for instance, finding ways to distribute meals to children in a geographically large district, she said.
One solution is setting up pickup stations for lunches so they can be eaten while still hot. “Some of our kids don't have running water. We have to try to think of every angle. Also a lot of our bus drivers are over 60 (and thus vulnerable themselves),” she said.
Greenup's faculty includes 132 Google-certified educators, which means they have added expertise in education technology, she said.
A recent survey showed about 90 percent of the district's students have internet capability at home. So an additional challenge is making sure the 10 percent without access can still get the educational materials they need, she said.
Clear and frequent communication from Frankfort has helped guide decision-making, according to Russell Superintendent Sean Horne. Following clear guidelines from the governor's office provides district officials the credibility they need when responding to parent inquiries, he said.
His district's remote education system is working well, he said. However, online instruction lacks the personal dimension of classes at school, according to Horne. “There are so many things that go on at school that you just can't replicate with kids being at home,” he said.
Putting the K-Prep accountability test on hold for the year is the right decision, because it has no effect on grades and the results would likely be skewed. “”I don't think it would be a level playing field for most schools in Kentucky” he said.
Moreover, Boblett said, “it's stressful even without the stressfull times we are living in right now . . . I don't think they are absolutely necessary. They're good tools for us to work on gaps, but we replicate a lot of the data through the year,” he said.
All 172 Kentucky public school districts closed last week at Beshear's recommendation.
So far, 46 states have closed their schools, according to Education Week, a non-profit organization that covers education.