Editor’s Note: The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) hosted a Special Superintendent’s Webcast on Friday, March 13, 2020, to provide assistance to our district leaders and answer questions about the impact of COVID-19 on their school systems.
The webcast featured Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown and the department’s executive leadership team, Dr. Connie White with the Kentucky Department of Public Health, Dr. Damien Sweeney, lead program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling for KDE and Harrison County Superintendent Harry Burchett.
We received more than 100 questions and are working to put them into a readable format that will be updated on this webpage. Here are some of the more frequent questions, answered by members of the executive leadership team.
What if schools must close during state testing? How will that be handled?
K-PREP and Alternate K-PREP assessments may be impacted by the closure of districts and a possible increase in the number of NTI days. KDE is preparing for all possible scenarios that could impact these assessments. At this time, there is not enough information to suspend K-PREP testing for the current school year.
For K-PREP and Alternate K-PREP, materials will be delayed for at least three weeks.
The U.S. Department of Education will consider waivers from testing and accountability if schools are closed during the entire testing window due to the impact of COVID-19. KDE will seek waivers whenever possible.
The ACT was administered to most high school juniors in Kentucky public schools on March 10. For districts that were not in session and for students who were absent on that date, April 14 will be a makeup test date will be made available, and students needing accommodations may be tested April 14-24. Additional makeup options will be made available as well.
KDE also is working with schools and districts to reschedule career and technical education end-of-program and Skilled Trades TRACK (carpentry and electrical) assessments that were scheduled to occur while schools are closed.
Can school athletic teams continue to practice and play?
No, practices should not be taking place during this closure period. The Kentucky High School Athletic Associated has instituted a dead period that suspends all sports and sport-related activities through April 12.
My district’s spring break begins after April 3. Should we alter our schedule to avoid being out for two weeks, in for one week and then out for spring break?
Plan on being out for the next two weeks, March 16-27. At the beginning of the second week, KDE will have further conversations about this and will be able to advise districts about what to do during that third week.
What is the plan for instruction of special education students with Individual Education Programs during this time?
If a local school district elects to utilize Kentucky’s Non-Traditional Instruction Program to provide educational opportunities to the general student population, then the district also must ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of Free Appropriate Public Education.
Can school boards meet remotely?
There are options for boards to meet remotely. Resources have gone out from the Kentucky School Boards Association regarding this, so please see that guidance.
When will we know if we have a waiver for the NTI Program if we have already used the majority of our days?
We will not know until the General Assembly acts. We are confident this will be passed. In the worst case scenario, we would ask the governor for an executive order to increase the number of NTI days that are allowed. Our commitment is to enabling the increase to 20 NTI days. We are confident we will have relief in this area.
Do you recommend staff come to school during NTI days or have them work remotely?
It’s best to work remotely, as the governor has recommended. If they are not working remotely, then they need to be using social distancing.
Should teachers be required to report?
If teachers can work remotely, allow them to work remotely. If you cannot do this, cut down on the number of staff in school and ensure social distancing.
Will the Kentucky Board of Education meet on March 18?
Yes, the board is still planning to meet to finalize work on selecting a search firm for the commissioner search. We anticipate the meeting will be moved to Frankfort and it will be webcast. There will be an official announcement on this meeting soon.
How can we help children deal with this from a mental wellness perspective?
Set a good example. If we are calm, they will likely be calm. They need to know someone will make the time to listen to them. Limit or avoid watching the news with children in the room.
Ensure family information is up to date with schools. Mental health counselors could be available at school. Counselors can make videos to share with students. For more information and resources, check out Sweeney’s Counselor Connection – Special Edition.