Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown’s April 3 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 SchoolsDear Kentucky Public School Families:

It should have come as no surprise to any of us when Gov. Andy Beshear asked Kentucky’s school superintendents on Thursday to keep schools across the state closed for another two weeks. It’s clear that we have a ways to go before the COVID-19 emergency is behind us and that the need for social distancing remains urgent in the fight to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor’s announcement was in part a response to the president’s decision to extend federal social distancing guidelines through April 30, and in part an acknowledgement that the best estimates available from our public health officials about the spread of the virus tell us that Kentucky simply won’t be ready for schools to reopen on April 20.

Both the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and your child’s school were already preparing for this. Two weeks ago, I advised superintendents to ask educators to prepare enough materials to extend their use of the Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program for six weeks, which would take most districts through May 1.

Schools and districts have done a tremendous job of changing or adapting their methods of operation in a very short time to ensure that educational services continue during this unprecedented event. We have seen one example after another of creativity, collaboration and dedication by those who are devoted to serving our students and all Kentuckians should be extremely proud of the work being done to serve the approximately 650,000 students in our public schools.

This is the second time that the governor’s recommendation to close schools has been extended, and I know many of you are asking why the closure period simply isn’t extended through the end of this school year.

The answer is simple: Just like you, the governor and all of us want Kentucky’s students to return to the classroom as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. We are not ready – and certainly not eager – to close the door on the possibility that could happen before the end of this school year – even though we know the time may come when we have to do that.

That time has not yet come, so we continue to focus on three priorities at KDE:

  • Educate – We’re making sure that your children continue to receive a meaningful education through the NTI Program.
  • Feed – We are assisting districts in making sure that children have access to breakfast and lunch while school buildings are closed.
  • Support – We are working daily with schools and districts to help them get the information and resources they need to make sure that no students, educators, schools or districts are hurt by the closure of school buildings.

As important as all of that is, however, it is no more important than what is taking place in your homes.

During Thursday’s phone call with Gov. Beshear and the superintendents, I reminded our school leaders to share the importance of social distancing. I am asking you for your help on this important matter as well.

We are continuing to see some pockets of congregating – particularly among middle school and high school students. We ask that you keep children from gathering with their friends at public places. This is most important for children with chronic diseases, such as asthma or diabetes, who are the most at-risk of catching COVID-19.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to it in the first place.

In this time of new realities, the value of the support and guidance you provide for your children as they continue their learning cannot be understated and does not go unappreciated.

You and your children are an important part of #TeamKentucky. 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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