Graphic reading: Governor Issues Executive Order Closing In-Person Instruction, Effective Nov. 23. Elementary schools (K-5th grade) may resume in-person Dec. 7 if the county is not in the red zone and schools are following Healthy at School Guidance. Middle and high schools may resume in-person Jan. 4.

  • Though the order will suspend in-person instruction, it will not prohibit schools from providing in-person targeted services for small groups.
  • As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the Commonwealth, districts should know what options are available for employee leave.

By Jacob Perkins

Gov. Andy Beshear announced all Kentucky schools must cease in-person instruction and transition to remote or virtual instruction beginning Nov. 23. An executive order will be forthcoming and is expected to be signed by Nov. 20.

The announcement came during Beshear’s Nov. 18 media briefing, where he reported 2,753 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, the state’s fourth-highest daily total. Of these cases, 292 are children ages 18 and under.

Beshear also reported 15 new deaths, including a 15-year-old girl from Ballard County, the first student to lose their life because of the virus.

“Now there were some significant pre-existing conditions,” Beshear said. “But (she was) a beloved member of her community and COVID was a factor in what took her from that community.”

Beshear said he has friends whose kids were “significantly and positively” impacted by this student.

It is anticipated the executive order will require all middle and high schools (grades 6-12) to implement nontraditional instruction and not resume in-person learning before Jan. 4.

Elementary schools (grades K-5) are expected to be allowed to reopen for in-person instruction beginning Dec. 7, as long as the school is not in a red zone county and follows all the safety expectations found in the Healthy at School guidance document.

“This virus, at its level right now, will overwhelm each and every one of our schools if we do not take action,” Beshear said.

As the virus escalates, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said it is imperative that Kentucky’s school and district leaders continue to model healthy behaviors in their communities.

“We urge you to continue stressing the importance of wearing a mask and following the guidance issued by the Kentucky Department for Public Health,” she said. “In order to get our students back in school, and keep our teachers and school staff safe, we need to unite as Team Kentucky in these critical efforts.”

Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass agreed with Beshear’s decision to issue the executive order as it will “provide the clarity that our districts desperately need.”

“Schools in Kentucky have been doing an amazing job managing COVID-19, but virus levels in our community are making normal school operations impossible and we also have to consider the increasing risks to our students, families and staff members,” he said. “It is our expectation at the Kentucky Department of Education that all of our schools and districts will follow this order and ensure they are doing their part in keeping our communities safe.”

Though the order is expected to suspend in-person instruction, it will not prohibit schools from providing in-person targeted services to small groups.

On Aug. 17, KDE issued guidance that details appropriate measures districts should consider when bringing small groups of students into the building for short orientation periods or to provide targeted services.

The document presents universal expectations and considerations for targeted services and special populations.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the Commonwealth, districts should know what options are available for employee leave. On July 21, KDE released guidance designed to provide an overview of leave options for school district personnel for the 2020-2021 school year.

This guidance was provided to school districts to help answer questions surrounding leave options. Since it is not legal advice, districts should consult their board counsel when making individual personnel decisions.

Other restrictions implemented by Beshear include limiting private indoor gatherings to no more than eight people, limiting public indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people and closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars.

“When addressing COVID-19, action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly,” Beshear said. “… None of these decisions are easy. I can tell you, none of them are going to be popular. … But these restrictions are necessary now.”