KDE asks districts to be flexible when planning for start of 2020-2021 school year

Posted at 8:13 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 20:13:52-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is asking school districts to be flexible as they consider their plans for the start of the next school year during the COVID-19 emergency.

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown told superintendents of the state’s 172 districts May 5 during a KDE webcast that Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman want to ensure that KDE and local districts are planning for multiple scenarios that might occur before and after the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Brown said that planning is already underway, even though there are many unknowns about what the start of a new school year might look like in Kentucky schools.

“The good news is we have some time to plan; the bad news is we don’t know exactly what we’re planning for,” Brown said. “We need every district to be nimble and to be able to adjust to what could be a changing public health landscape in the fall.”

Brown said Beshear and Coleman want KDE and its districts to consider three possibilities for when the next school year might start:

  • An early start, perhaps as early as late July;
  • A traditional start
  • A late start, perhaps after Labor Day.

He said an early start could let districts begin the year with in-person instruction if a decline in the number of cases of the coronavirus allows it, with the possibility of a suspension of in-person classes if there is a spike in cases.

Brown told the superintendents they might consider asking their local boards of education to approve multiple calendars to allow for the different scenarios, and districts should be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances near or after the beginning of the school year.

“We don’t know that any of this will occur, but we need in a time of a global pandemic to be prepared,” Brown said.

Brown also said that a resumption of in-person classes might come with a number of changes that will have to be made in the interest of the safety and health of students and staff members. Those could include the use of social distancing both in school buildings and on buses.

He said KDE is working with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Southern Regional Education Board as it develops guidance for districts, but he stressed that any guidance issued by KDE will focus on what is best for Kentucky’s students.

Brown said planning will continue in the coming weeks and months and will involve districts and partner groups, but the decisions will ultimately be made at the local level.

“We’re not going to dictate from the department what your calendar looks like,” he said. “We’re just telling you about things you’re going to have to be prepared for if the public health landscape changes.”

He said the discussion would continue in greater detail in the next superintendents’ webcast May 12.