Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown’s April 10 letter to families

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From the Desk of Commissioner Kevin C. Brown, An Update for Kentucky's Families about the COVID-19 Crisis and Our Schools, April 10, 2020

Dear Kentucky Public School Families:

It has been just over a month since Kentucky’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed, and it has been the longest month of many of our lives. We had no idea when that announcement was made on March 6 how our lives were about to change and we still don’t know when they’ll return to something close to normal.

We couldn’t know when the Harrison County schools announced the following day they were closing as a measure to limit the spread of the virus in their community that all of our school buildings would be shuttered just a week later. We couldn’t foresee that there would be so many changes, so much sacrifice, and yes, heartbreaking losses.

By now, so many of us have become so busy in our new routine, so consumed with news and information and so prone to worry that we forget to take time for ourselves. I’ve been guilty of that at times over the past month, and I’m sure many of you have as well.

During this time when your children are learning at home, they need you in ways you wouldn’t have thought of a month ago. They require more of your time and attention, and that’s why it’s so important for you to take care of yourself as well as them.

If you would normally spend a few minutes during your work day to chat with a colleague about the weather or the latest movie, give that person a call when you have time for a break. Eat healthy, exercise using social distancing and take routine breaks from the constant COVID-19 news cycle.

If you can, step outside and ring a bell at 10 a.m. every day to signify hope and compassion and to show that we are all Kentuckians united for a common cause. Dig through your holiday decorations and find green lights that you can use to illuminate your home each evening to honor those Kentuckians we have lost to the virus. Take a moment during this Easter weekend to watch Kentucky’s trees leaf out to green as a sign that renewal is real and that we will all be OK.

I want to update you on some of the important work that has taken place at the Kentucky Department of Education this week.

On Thursday, the Kentucky Board of Education held a virtual meeting at which members of the board offered encouragement to students and to all of those who have been educating and supporting them while they are learning at home. We paused the meeting at 10 a.m. and I rang a bell that once belonged to my great-aunt, who worked as a dorm mother at Kentucky School for the Deaf, as a show of solidarity.

During the meeting, the board heard a discussion on the possibility of relaxing graduation requirements for the class of 2020. Local school districts have the option of waiving any additional graduation requirements beyond the 22 credits required by the state or petitioning the state board for relief that would eliminate elective requirements and lower the number of required credits to 15.

It is up to local board of educations to take action on either option. KDE has consulted with students, principals, superintendents and other stakeholders, and support for those two options is essentially split.

The board also voted to temporarily waive several regulations in order to provide flexibility to school districts during the COVID-19 emergency, and we likely will ask for more waivers in the future as KDE and other education stakeholders determine where schools and districts need flexibility to continue to serve their students during the pandemic.

Earlier this week, we told our superintendents that Kentucky schools and districts could receive more than $200 million in emergency relief funds from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. All districts would receive some of these funds, and they would have broad local authority to use the money.

We also launched a new webpage designed to provide COVID-19 education-related updates and information for educators, staff and families.

The department’s three main goals during this international pandemic are to remain focused on the continuation of education, feeding and support. All three of these are reflected on the site, which virtually aligns all of the resources KDE is providing in one place.

As we continue our work, we remain grateful for the work you are doing to provide support and guidance for your children as they continue their learning. Your effort cannot be understated and does not go unappreciated. You and your children are an important part of #TeamKentucky, and as the governor reminds us daily, we will get through this. We will get through this together. We are #TeamKentucky.

Sincerely,

Kevin C. Brown

To stay up to date on resources and news about what is going on in Kentucky’s education system related to COVID-19, make sure you check out KDE’s website regularly. The website contains vital information during this time of uncertainty, including frequently asked questions for parents and schools, new resources for educators and feeding sites in each district.

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