Superintendents Advisory Council reconvenes to discuss 2020-2021 attendance amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Superintendents Advisory Council Virtual Meeting, June 8, 2020

  • The Kentucky Department of Education reconvened the Superintendents Advisory Council to afford additional opportunities for superintendents to have their voices heard.
  • Woodford County Superintendent Scott Hawkins explained that his district has surveyed parents about reopening. Based on some of the responses, Woodford County has determined some of its families are not comfortable sending their children back to school in the fall.

By Jacob Perkins
Jacob.perkins@education.ky.gov

In its latest effort to provide guidance and insight for Kentucky’s schools during the COVID-19 crisis, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) reconvened the Superintendents Advisory Council (SAC) to afford additional opportunities for superintendents to have their voices heard.

Since the pandemic began affecting Kentucky’s public schools, the department assembled advisory councils and even formed the Education Continuation Task Force to seek input from education constituents from across the Commonwealth.

Since April 14, KDE’s leadership team has hosted a weekly Special Superintendents’ Webcast dedicated to answering questions regarding schools and COVID-19.

The SAC last met March 9 – three days before Gov. Andy Beshear’s March 12 recommendation to cease in-person instruction that would later be extended through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. While the council wasn’t scheduled to meet again until Sept. 3, KDE called the group together for a June 8 virtual meeting to discuss attendance and funding for the 2021-2022 school year.

When determining their 2020-2021 Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding – the primary funding source for districts – districts were allowed flexibility from the passage of SB 177 (2020) to choose whether they wanted to submit their 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 school year attendance data for calculations. KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney said 14 of Kentucky’s 172 public school districts decided to use their 2019-2020 data for 2020-2021 funding purposes, feeling that this data was an accurate portrayal for their district. 

Since SEEK funding is distributed based on a per-pupil basis, questions remain about how attendance will be counted this fall and when determining funding for the 2021-2022 school year.

KDE has been encouraging schools to prepare for three contingencies for the start of the school year: a traditional opening while following guidance from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, beginning the school year online by utilizing the department’s Non-Traditional Instruction Program or an adjusted model that would blend both a traditional and electronic opening. 

Woodford County Superintendent Scott Hawkins said his district has surveyed parents about reopening. Based on some of the responses, Woodford County has determined some of its families are not comfortable sending their children back to school in the fall. 

Because of this, Hawkins felt many districts will be forced into an adjusted model of instruction and wondered how attendance could be counted if this were to occur.

Boyle County Superintendent Mike LaFavers and Calloway County Superintendent Tres Settle echoed Hawkins’ concerns.

“We know that is a very real possibility, if not a probability, that you’ll have lots of families and students for very reasonable reasons that chose not to come back through classroom doors,” said Kinney.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said the plan is for KDE to request a waiver similar to the one issued by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, on April 3 that suspended the requirement that students who plan to graduate from high school in 2020 pass a civics test, as well as certain requirements for completing an early high school graduation program.

The waiver will determine how attendance and funding will be counted if Kentucky continues forward with an adjusted opening in which schools reopen with staff shortages or social distancing measures that impact capacity, or with the possibility of some schools being unable to reopen.

The SAC will meet every other week, alternating weeks with the Education Continuation Task Force. Its next meeting is scheduled for June 22.

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