Kentucky Education Association comes out against in-person classes to begin school year

Kentucky Education Association comes out against in-person classes to begin school year
The Kentucky Education Association wants Kentucky's schools to start virtually for all students. (Source: WIS)

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - A prominent Kentucky teachers organization is urging school district superintendents to begin the fall semester virtually for all students.

The Kentucky Education Association represents 42,000 educators around the commonwealth.

KEA says in-person instruction should not resume until what it terms the “infection rate” statewide and in each respective district is below 4 percent for 21 consecutive days.

It is not clear what the group means by “infection rate.” The most common measures of the virus’s spread in a region are reproduction rate and positivity rate. Possibly KEA means the latter.

Kentucky’s positivity rate has been declining since a mid-July case surge and currently stands at 5.57 percent according to state health department data (and 7.3 percent according to Johns Hopkins University.) Meanwhile, cases have plateaued, and deaths seem so far not to have risen in the wake of that July surge.

Still, as KEA notes, the data are a far cry from the days of June, when Kentucky’s daily case reports numbered below 150, its positivity rate sat around 3 percent and it appeared to have averted a COVID-19 surge altogether.

“The most difficult decisions to make are those where all the choices are bad,” KEA wrote in its statement. “Under those circumstances, the best decision is the one that does the least harm. In this moment, we must all weigh our craving for normalcy against the health and safety of our children, the educators who actively serve them, the retired educators and other senior Kentuckians who are at higher risk from this disease, and all their families and communities.”

KEA encourages districts and teachers to follow strict social distancing and sanitization protocols if in-person classes do occur.

It also applauds those school districts that have already made the “responsible decision to protect students and educators by closing schools to in-person instruction and beginning 2020-21 school year virtually for all students.”

Boone County Schools is not among them, though its fall plan, like those of so many districts, does contain a contingency if an outbreak occurs or the virus worsens in the region generally.

The district is preparing for 70 percent of its students to return to in-person learning, while the remaining students have opted for virtual learning. Those that return to the classroom will do so with a hybrid ‘AB’ schedule such that just 35 percent of the regular student body will be at school at any given time.

At any time, says Superintendent Matthew Turner, that plan can be shifted to a fully remote and virtual model.

Turner spoke about returning to fall classes, including what factored into the district’s decision to pursue a hybrid model, in a letter sent to parents Friday:

“Right now there is a lot of concern and worry about the reopening of schools. Students are concerned about safety, seeing their friends, what their future will hold. Faculty, administration, and staff are concerned for their safety, their ability to effectively do their job, their mental health, and the future for the students they serve. Parents are concerned about the safety and health of their students, their progress in learning, the future of their children, and how to manage childcare and their jobs. Community members are generally concerned about their health and safety, their jobs and businesses, and the future outlook and health of their community. Each of those concerns must be important to all of us and we must work together to meet these needs and concerns.”

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