Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown’s May 15 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, May 15, 2020

Dear Kentucky Public School Families:

As this school year draws to a close, I’d like to thank you on behalf of KDE staff and the education profession for your assistance in ensuring Kentucky students continued to learn during the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand the pressures you are facing as you balance caring for children, helping them learn and, in many cases, continuing your own work.

Your children will never forget the challenges confronted in 2020. For high school seniors and their family members, we realize this has been an emotional and, quite frankly, disappointing time. Thank you for dealing with these hurdles while ensuring that our students successfully completed hundreds of hours of non-traditional instruction (NTI) work.

I invite you to join me in viewing “Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020,” which airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, May 16. This one-hour primetime special will honor the nation’s 3 million seniors with an inspiring send-off that may be enjoyed by the entire family. As part of the effort, I submitted a two-minute video tribute to Kentucky’s Class of 2020. The event will be aired simultaneously by more than 20 broadcast TV and digital streaming partners, including ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX.

Because of the use of non-traditional instruction since March 16, finding meaningful learning opportunities for your children this summer is going to be more important than ever. The Kentucky Department of Education has launched a series of Summer Support webpages in partnership with The Children’s Reading Foundation and the Summer Food Service Program that contain learning resources for both literacy and mathematics. We hope you will be able to find ideas and resources you can use to keep your children’s minds active and learning throughout the summer so they will be ready to hit the ground running when school reopens.

Also note that state agencies, school districts and community organizations are working around the clock to ensure students still have access to healthy breakfasts and lunches when school is out of session. Waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have made it easier for schools and organizations to get meals to children, sometimes several days of meals, without asking students to congregate or eat on site. These waivers also have relaxed what types of foods are required in meals, as some meal components are harder to procure or provide adequate shelf stable options.

The best ways to find a free meal for students 18 and younger:

Here is an update on some other things that have happened at the Kentucky Department of Education this week:

On Monday, champions were crowned during the Kentucky Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP) virtual state competition. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the K-12 state competition – normally held at Rupp Arena in Lexington and hosting around 15,000 students, teachers and family members – was presented virtually.

On Tuesday, superintendents around the state were given guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) that provides “a framework” for scenarios that school districts might consider as they plan their calendars for the 2020-2021 school year. KDE will be flexible as districts plan or adjust their school calendars.

On a Wednesday virtual meeting, KDE’s School Counselor Advisory Council members stressed the importance of not only staying connected with students as they complete the 2019-2020 school year, but also remaining connected throughout the summer. Summer camps and activities for Kentucky’s children that provide social and emotional support appear to be unlikely to happen. This year, more so than ever, in addition to an academic summer slide, Kentucky’s school counselors are worried about an emotional and mental health one.

On Friday, KDE released a new guidance document “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools, Initial Guidance for Schools and Districts” outlining a variety of questions schools and district leaders should consider when they are making plans for how to restart the 2020-21 school year amid COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the decisions on how to move forward in this challenging time will be decided by local boards of education and school-based decision-making councils.

As we continue to work to find our new normal, I assure you that we will provide your school leaders with the necessary guidance to support all students and families during these uncertain times. We are all in this together, working on behalf of our children. 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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