Following the Kentucky General Assembly’s decision to disallow an emergency regulation related to paid leave for district employees, leadership from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) met with school district leaders during the Superintendents Webcast on March 8 to provide details on how to move forward for quarantined staff.

The regulation, which was initially approved by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) last August, provided paid leave for full- and part-time district staff who were ordered to quarantine by a medical professional, a local health department, the Kentucky Department for Public Health or the employing school district. Employees were required to have taken the COVID-19 vaccine or be exempt because of disability or sincerely held religious belief to be eligible for the paid leave.

The additional leave prevented employees from having to use their limited personal or sick leave days for quarantine. In order to be effective for the 2021-2022 school year, the regulation was filed on an emergency basis.

Following the public comment period, the regulation was required to go before the legislature’s Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee (ARRS).

At the March 7 ARRS meeting, the subcommittee found the regulation to be deficient, citing Senate Bill (SB) 25 (2022) as the primary reason, said Todd Allen, general counsel for KDE.

On Jan. 14, Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law SB 25, which extends flexibility for school districts to use temporary remote learning due to significant absences of students or staff related to COVID-19.

Districts can use up to 10 temporary remote learning days between Jan. 1 and June 30 to assign students to remote learning. These remote learning days are separate from the 10 nontraditional instruction days annually granted to districts under KRS 158.070(9).

SB 25 also extends flexibilities for school districts to re-employ retirees, both certified and classified, through June 30, 2022.

However, before being signed into law, the General Assembly added additional sections, including one that specified that any COVID-19 related emergency regulations not specifically mentioned within the bill were nullified. KBE’s emergency regulation related to paid leave for district employees who are quarantined because of COVID-19 was not specifically included in the bill, Allen said.

“Those symptomatic, vaccinated folks who otherwise would have relied upon the emergency regulation quarantine leave will now need to rely on their sick leave going forward,” Allen explained.

At the same time that the board initially approved the emergency regulation last August, members also approved an ordinary administrative regulation related to quarantine leave for school district employees. This regulation is not specific to COVID-19 and applies to quarantine for any type of communicable disease.

“What that provides is if an employee is either ineligible to use sick leave or has exhausted their sick leave, then additional paid leave will be provided to them for the purpose of quarantining,” Allen said.

This regulation will go into effect on May 3. Until then, Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass said the department will provide guidance for districts to help clarify the General Assembly’s decision.

2023 Fiscal Year

With the 2023 fiscal year on the horizon, KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney joined the Superintendent’s Webcast to examine how funding will look for local school districts next school year.

During a special session last year, and because of increasing COVID-19 cases throughout the Commonwealth at the time, the Kentucky General Assembly passed SB 1 (2021), which allows districts to use previous attendance data from either the 2018-2019 or the 2019-2020 school years to calculate the average daily attendance used in calculating the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding formula, and any other state funding based in whole or in part on average daily attendance, for the 2021-2022 school year. 

The SEEK program is a formula-driven allocation of state-provided funds to local school districts for costs, including transportation and help for low-income and special needs students. For school districts in Kentucky, funds received are based on the previous year’s attendance data. Since the formula was frozen again this year, districts are not reporting average daily attendance to the department and will continue to receive funding based on the attendance data submitted for the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 school year.

Kinney recommended superintendents research two pieces of legislation currently being discussed in the General Assembly, House Bills (HB) 639 and 703.

HB 639 provides language on growth calculations for the number of students within a district, as well as a loss adjustment for districts that have lost at least 3% of their enrollment since the last time SEEK was calculated, something many district leaders have expressed concerns about throughout the pandemic.

HB 703 would transition from average daily attendance to average daily membership, or the cumulative days students are enrolled in a public school on attendance days divided by the actual number of days the school is in session.

“I wanted to call those to your attention so you can take a look at them and see how that might impact your district if they start moving along,” Kinney said. “At this point in time, we’re not seeing a lot of movement, but they have been recently filed.”

Kinney also walked through the timeline for submitting requests for school security funds.

School security funding was included in HB 352 (2020),  which allocated monies to each district for upgrading security measures in schools.

All school security request forms are due to KDE by May 31 in order to have them approved before they expire on June 30, Kinney said.

SB 1 (2019), known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, called for: establishing a state school security marshal; conducting risk assessments; boosting safety and prevention training; requiring superintendents to appoint a school safety coordinator; increasing awareness of suicide prevention efforts; encouraging collaboration with law enforcement; and, as funds become available, hiring more counselors and school resource officers in school districts.

SB 1 also required each school building to install electronic door locks, cameras, intercoms, classroom door locks, door and window coverings in classrooms, and exterior door access control.

All schools in a district must be in compliance with the facility security requirements by July 1, 2022.

A district with a school not in compliance shall not be eligible for approval for new building construction or expansion in the 2022-2023 school year, and any subsequent year, without verification of compliance. That does not include facility improvements that specifically address school safety and security issues, or in essential cases for protecting student or staff health and safety.

Additional information for the School Security Funds is available on KDE’s School Security Funds webpage.

Local Laboratories of Learning (L3s)

David Cook, KDE’s director of innovation, and Sarah Snipes, a branch manager in KDE’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support, joined Tuesday’s meeting to share an opportunity for districts to forge deeper connections with their community and shape what the state’s next assessment and accountability system will look like.

KDE is searching for districts to join the third cohort of the Local Laboratories of Learning (L3s). Fourteen districts of all sizes are currently participating in the first and second L3 cohorts, where they are piloting new assessment, accountability and learning approaches.

As part of this opportunity, each district forms a broad and inclusive coalition within their community to help guide their work. The coalition provides invaluable insight into what is and isn’t working for students and families in the district, along with assistance in creating a prototype to address a specific challenge.

For many of the districts in the first L3 cohort, this process has been an opportunity for them to capitalize and expand on ideas they already were using. For instance, Allen County is designing an experience that includes a student defense of learning system that aligns with their emerging “profile of a graduate” work. In Shelby County, a plan is being developed to engage every stakeholder in an understanding of the district’s profile of a graduate and what it means for students, families, employers and postsecondary institutions. And in Jefferson County, the Backpack of Success Skills is being refined to include personalized opportunities for all students across grade levels to demonstrate life skills and show mastery of standards in flexible ways.

To learn more about the L3 process, districts are encouraged to visit the L3 Agreement Form.

In other business, superintendents:

  • Heard updates from Toni Konz Tatman, KDE’s chief communications officer. The update included a recap of Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass’ recent trip to Western Kentucky to visit districts affected by the December 2021 tornadoes. Students and staff shared stories about the days following the storms and the resiliency that followed. A recap of the visits is available on Kentucky Teacher.
  • Heard from Konz Tatman that for the first time, every school district in the state submitted a nomination for the Teacher of the Year Award. Over 2,000 nominations were received. From those nominations, up to 24 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award winners will be announced in the spring. The top nine contenders will receive additional evaluations, which will culminate in the selection of the 2023 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.
  • Received updates on KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness’ new certification platform​ from Byron Darnall, the office’s associate commissioner. The online platform is projected to launch May 2 and will streamline the certification process.
  • Discussed methods to accelerate student learning during the summer and through the academic year with KDE’s Chief Academic Officer Micki Ray, including creating learning acceleration plans. Additional methods can be found in the department’s Accelerating Student Learning During the Summer and Academic School Year guidance document.
  • Received a legislative update from Brian Perry, KDE’s director of government relations. KDE currently is monitoring several bills in various stages of the legislative process, ranging from legislation surrounding mental health in district attendance policies, face coverings in schools and early literacy education.
  • Discussed COVID-19 updates with Connie White, M.D., deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.