KBE voices its support for educators, families during COVID-19 emergency

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Kentucky Board of Education Virtual Meeting, April 9, 2020

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) expressed its support at its April 9 meeting for educators and families during the extended period of school closures brought about by the COVID-19 emergency.

During a virtual meeting of the board, members offered encouragement to students and all of those who have been educating and supporting them while they are learning at home.

“We owe the teachers, the students and the parents a really sincere acknowledgement of gratitude (for) the courage that they have shown to take on so many drastic changes in a short period of time,” board member Sharon Porter Robinson said.

“We as educators understand where you are, both parents and teachers,” board member Patrice McCrary added.

In-person classes in Kentucky schools have been suspended since March 16, and all 172 Kentucky school districts are utilizing the Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Program.

Robinson acknowledged that there have been drastic changes for students since schools were closed, but she said the board is committed to supporting them.

“We’re determined to find a way to support the future that they deserve and the future that we want as a state,” she said.

Chairman David Karem said school personnel at all levels have been doing tremendous work.

“Everybody is stepping up,” Karem said.

The board held its second virtual meeting in compliance with Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation to practice social distancing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

The board voted to temporarily waive several regulations in order to provide flexibility to school districts during the COVID-19 emergency:

  • The deadline for districts to adopt a school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year was extended to June 30, and the deadline for districts to file new or amended school calendars with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) was pushed back to July 31.
  • The deadline for districts to submit new or amended applications for the Non-Traditional Instruction Program for the 2020-2021 school year was moved to June 15.
  • Regulations applying to assessment, accountability and reporting for the 2019-2020 school year were waived as the next step after the U.S. Department of Education granted a waiver to KDE from statewide assessment, accountability and reporting requirements. KDE notified superintendents March 24 that K-PREP testing for the 2019-2020 school year had been canceled.
  • Renewal timelines will be extended for the All STARS preschool rating program for sites subject to renewal through July 31.
  • The requirement calling for at least two home visits per child per year for state-funded preschool programs for 4-year-olds is waived for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown told the board there likely will be a need 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.

“We are on a rolling review process to determine what are the things getting in the way of education during this crisis,” Brown said.

One example could be a temporary relaxation of graduation requirements for the class of 2020, which was discussed during the meeting.

KDE Associate Commissioner Amanda Ellis told the board that 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.

Students are required to have 22 credits to graduate from Kentucky schools: four credits in English, three in mathematics, three in science, three in social studies, one in visual and performing arts and one-half each in health and physical education.

However, most districts have additional requirements beyond the 22-credit minimum. Those requirements could be waived by local boards of education. In addition, districts could seek relief from KBE to eliminate the elective requirements, leaving only a requirement of 15 credits of core content.

Ellis said KDE has consulted with students, principals, superintendents and other stakeholders, and she said support for those two options is essentially split.

“I’ve had pros and cons shared with me on both,” she said. “The biggest difference would be electives, but we are not taking away from any of the core areas.”

Ellis said the board could consider individual waivers or a blanket waiver at a special meeting.

The board also heard a report on the suspension of the statutory requirements that students who plan to graduate from high school in 2020 pass a civics test, as well as certain statutory requirements for completing an early high school graduation program.

Brown, KDE associate commissioners and other members of KDE’s leadership team also reported to the board on how the COVID-19 emergency has impacted the agency’s work. Brown lauded the work of the KDE staff and of school and district staffs across Kentucky.

“I just can’t say enough about the responsiveness of the superintendents, local boards of education, teachers and staff all across the state,” he said. “We know that we still have challenges, but we’ve also had some amazing things go on.”

The board heard an update from Jefferson County Superintendent Marty Pollio on the district’s action to implement the corrective action plan that resulted from a settlement agreement with KDE. He said the district is proposing changes to its student assignment plan, which he said needs to be revised to better support all students.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard a report on education-related legislation that has been signed into law and that is still pending in the Kentucky General Assembly.
  • Heard an update on the 2020-2021 budget approved by the Kentucky General Assembly and emergency relief funds KDE could receive from the federal government, as well as an update on education-related legislation from the 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
  • Heard a report from executive search firm Greenwood/Asher and Associates Inc. on the early stages of its work in the search for the next commissioner of education.
  • Approved an amendment to the regulation governing the evaluation of charter school authorizers that would allow local boards of education to delay charter school authorizer training until they receive an application for a charter school and would eliminate some reporting requirements that go beyond those already required by statute.
  • Repealed a regulation concerning the Kentucky State Plan for Career and Technical Education that referred to a previous version of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and a regulation concerning school nutrition employee training that is superseded by federal requirements.

The board also:

  • Approved new district facility plans for the Laurel County and Warren County schools.
  • Approved a request from the Fayette County schools to waive construction project size limitations for the new Tates Creek High School building.
  • Approved a request from the Fort Thomas Independent schools for a waiver that allows the district, which does not own full-size school buses, to use common carriers for transporting large numbers of students.
  • Approved the 2021 Kentucky minimum specifications for school buses.
  • Approved the appointment of Joshua Matthews of Franklin to the Kentucky School for the Deaf Advisory Board as a Kentucky school district representative.
  • Approved the reappointment of Darrell Billings of Clay City to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control as an at-large member.
  • Approved an alternative school-based decision making council model for Rosenwald-Dunbar Elementary School (Jessamine County).

At 10 a.m. ET, Brown paused the meeting to ring a bell that belonged to his great-aunt as a show of support for all Kentuckians during this crisis. Beshear has asked churches and anyone else who can to ring bells at 10 a.m. local time daily as a show of solidarity.

“I am going to ring this bell to signify hope and compassion and that we are all Kentuckians united in a common cause,” he said.

The board’s next regular meeting is June 3.

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