From the Desk of Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. An update for Kentucky's Families about the COVID-19 crisis and our schools, May 22, 2020

Dear Kentucky Public School Families:

When schools began across the state last fall, none of us would have predicted the less-than-storybook ending that our students have endured – especially our high school seniors. Milestone events suddenly vanished. Gone were academic award ceremonies, sporting events, proms and traditional graduation ceremonies. To honor the perseverance of our seniors, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has produced “Kentucky’s Tribute to the Class of 2020,” a one-hour program that will be streamed on the department’s special YouTube channel at 7 p.m. ET this Saturday, May 23.

The tribute is presented by KDE and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, with a goal of giving the Commonwealth’s seniors a special, inspiring send-off that may be enjoyed by family, friends and others across the nation. The event will be hosted by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.

Throughout the tribute, more than 1,500 photographs of our seniors submitted from superintendents and high school principals across the state will be shown. Also featured will be a collection of commencement addresses from Gov. Andy Beshear and several other elected and appointed education leaders across the state, as well as musical performances from Kentucky artists J.D. Shelburne, Linkin’ Bridge and the Kentucky State Choir. In addition to the livestreamed event, KDE has created social media frames for Facebook and Twitter highlighting the accomplishments of both our students and their parents. I hope you will be able to tune and watch this special tribute, I cannot wait to see how it all turned out! 

As Kentucky families transition into the summer months with less schoolwork and more outdoor activities, many educators worry about the summer slide. Children can lose up to three months of learning in reading and math during this time because they are out of the classroom and the skills they have learned are not being reinforced.

Due to the cancellation of in-person classes since March 16, summer slide is a bigger challenge this year than it ever has been. Students are likely to have gaps in their learning after the past nine weeks of non-traditional instruction. Summer slide will only make next school year more challenging.

You can help your children keep their brains active and learning over the summer with a variety of resources the department has included on the Summer Support webpage. Below are some tips about how you can use the resources with your children this summer:

  • Summer Support includes a variety of online reading and mathematics resources for children of all ages from KET, Kentucky Virtual Library, Scholastic Summer Read-A-Palooza and Kentucky Family Math Games.
  • Reading together 20 minutes every day is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your child succeeds in school. See the information about the importance of reading to your children and for printable items like bookmarks. All of these items are available in both English and Spanish.
  • The virtual read aloud series offers opportunities for you and your children to enjoy hearing stories read by guest readers, including First Lady Britainy Beshear, me, Kentucky high school graduates and state authors.

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

On Monday, members of the KDE Education Continuation Task Force met to discuss a guidance document about reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The task force brought up the potential issue of how districts and schools will handle the need for personal protective equipment and deliberated possibilities of varying instructional delivery models for the 2020-2021 school year.

On Tuesday, KDE released a new guidance document about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to help districts decide how best to spend the funding designed to help districts respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The ESSER Fund provides emergency aid to states. The KDE received $193,186,874 – 90% of which is to be distributed to local education agencies to support their crisis response efforts.

Also on Tuesday, superintendents from Kentucky’s 172 school districts joined KDE leadership during a May 19 webcast as they dove into the reopening guidance document released by the department on May 15 that leads school leaders through a variety of questions to consider when planning how to start classes for the 2020-2021 school year. The KDE is encouraging schools to prepare for three contingencies for the start of the school year: an early opening, a traditional opening and a late opening. As districts begin working on plans for reopening, superintendents were told it is imperative to think about their districts’ most vulnerable students. Local school districts also should be prepared for possible intermittent school building closures when determining which reopening method would best serve their communities.

During a Thursday call with Kentucky’s 172 superintendents, Gov. Andy Beshear and Mark Carter – who was recently appointed as executive adviser leading the contact tracing for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services – introduced the contact tracing program and spoke of the importance of contact tracing as a way to manage the transmission of the virus. Each state and territory is using contact tracing as a tool to fight the spread of COVID-19. Through the contact tracing program, public health workers will record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.

On Friday, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) and KDE announced they are partnering to provide food assistance to families who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals during the COVID-19 emergency. Beginning May 23, families with students who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school may get financial assistance to replace those meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Today and every day, our work will be deliberate and steadfast to provide you and your school leaders with all the tools necessary to ensure your children continue to excel in a safe learning environment. We are all in this together, working on behalf of our children. We are #TeamKentucky.