Jess Clark

Jess Clark is WWNO's Education Desk reporter. Jess comes to the station after two years as Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting for North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC (Chapel Hill). Her reporting has aired on national programs, including NPR's All Things ConsideredHere & Now from WBURand NPR's Weekend Edition

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Jess graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with a master's in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Ryan Van Velzer

Forecasters are predicting a “major, major” winter weather event to hit Kentucky and southern Indiana beginning Wednesday afternoon, according to Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett. He warned ice could be a significant threat.

Dossett said the most significant precipitation is expected between 5 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday. Total precipitation is expected to be between 0.25 inches to 0.5 inches.

“The roadways are going to be extraordinarily dangerous,” due to freezing rain, ice, sleet and snow, Dossett said. The greatest impact will be in central and southern Kentucky.

Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons

Kentucky House lawmakers are trying, again, to pass a bill allowing students with felony convictions to use their Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, or KEES, funding.

Kentucky high school students are eligible to get a certain amount of college funding based on their GPAs and test scores through the KEES scholarship program, which is funded by the state lottery.

The higher a student’s GPA, the more funding the student receives, up to $2,000 if they maintain a 4.0 GPA for four years. Students can also earn more based on their ACT score, or scores on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge Advanced International (CAI) exams.

Stephanie Wolf

Kentucky has surpassed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. Saturday Gov. Andy Beshear reported the state’s death toll from COVID-19 has now reached more than 4,000 people. Beshear reported 49 new deaths, bringing total deaths to 4,020. 

The state marked 3,000 deaths just weeks ago in mid-January.

The governor also reported another 1,998 new cases. The state’s seven-day average of new cases has been on the decline after a post-holiday surge. But public health officials are worried about Super Bowl gatherings becoming super-spreader events, and are warning people to avoid hosting or attending Super Bowl parties.

Across the state, 1,294 people are hospitalized with the virus. Of those people, 318 are in the ICU and 164 are on a ventilator.

Creative Commons

A bill reforming the teacher pension system for new hires cleared the Kentucky State House Thursday afternoon, less than two hours after coming out of a legislative committee.

The bill would put teachers hired after Jan. 2022 into a different “tier” than current employees. The new tier would have a smaller defined benefit than the existing plan, but would also have an additional defined contribution, meaning a portion of retirees’ total benefits could fluctuate based on the treasury rate, but would not go down in value. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Massey (R-Boone), said the average payment would be 74% of the teacher’s salary, similar to salary replacement for the current plan and would save the state $3.57 billion over the next 30 years.

FBI

Law enforcement agencies have charged several people with Kentucky ties for their alleged role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. All face federal charges.

Law enforcement arrested Kentucky resident Robert Bauer on Jan. 15 for illegally and violently entering the Capitol and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to an FBI statement, Bauer told investigators he and his cousin were at the rally for President Donald Trump, when they began marching toward the Capitol “because President Trump said to do so.” 

Video and photos from Bauer’s phone shows Bauer inside the Capitol with the rioters. According to the FBI statement, Bauer told investigators “he did not think he had done anything wrong and according to him, there were no signs posted stating that he could not enter the U.S. Capitol building.” He also denied knowing that Congress was in session, and said his purpose for entering the building was to “occupy the space.”

Jess Clark | WFPL

Gov. Andy Beshear announced plans on Thursday to significantly expand coronavirus vaccination opportunities beginning next month, on the same day he announced the state had crossed the 3,000 mark in fatalities. 

At a wide-ranging briefing, Beshear said he believes all k-12 personnel who agreed to be vaccinated will have received their first doses by the end of the first week of February. Second doses will follow in early March.

“This is really exciting,” Beshear said. “This means with something as important as vaccines, we’re actually beating deadlines – maybe even getting them partially done before we thought we’d be able to start.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 2,860 new cases this afternoon, a record number for a Sunday, when cases are usually lower due to labs being closed. 

The previous record for a Sunday was on Nov. 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when the state confirmed 2,803 new cases.

Twenty-five more Kentuckians have died of the virus. That brings the state’s total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 2,533.

Additionally, the state’s positivity rate jumped up to 11.1%. Public health experts have said that positivity rates above 5% are too dangerous to have large swaths of the economy open.

needpix.com

Kentucky school districts have had their internet access restored after a Christmas Day bombing in Nashville knocked out networks across the region. 

The explosion damaged an AT&T building causing widespread service outages across the region including in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Indiana. 

The network was down this weekend for nearly 60 Kentucky school districts, along with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) offices in Frankfort, according to KDE spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman. 

“This appears to be concentrated basically in central Kentucky and far western Kentucky,” she said. “Though it did reach Anchorage Independent up in Louisville.”

flickr/Emory Maiden

Gov. Andy Beshear has signed a new executive order making certain health and safety guidelines mandatory for schools returning to in-person classes on Jan. 4. Beshear announced these measures on Monday. His order gives them the force of law.

The order makes a portion of the “Healthy At School” guidelines mandatory. Previously these had only been recommendations. The document, created by the Department of Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Education, is divided into “expectations” and  “best practices.” The “expectations” become mandatory under Beshear’s order. These guidelines are mostly around mask-wearing, social distancing and cleaning.

Many of the expectations are flexible. For example, desks only have to be spaced 6 feet apart, if possible.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order halting in-person classes will remain in effect, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Thursday not to take up Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s challenge against the order on grounds it violates religious freedom.

“Under all of the circumstances, especially the timing and the impending expiration of the Order, we deny the application without prejudice,” the justices wrote in a Thursday opinion.

The justices note that Beshear’s order will expire soon. But they leave open the possibility the suit could be brought again, if, for example, Beshear renews his executive order. 

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Thomas Galvez/Creative Commons

The state is creating a new committee called the Commonwealth Education Continuum to address gaps in the education system from pre-K to college.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday it will bring together 27 people with expertise in early childhood education, K-12 education, higher education and workforce development. Beshear said the goal is to bridge gaps between them.

“One agency alone cannot tackle the many issues facing public education,” he said.

The committee will be led by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education Aaron Thompson and Education Commissioner Jason Glass.

“It really is a matter of taking what we have and all of the parts that exist across Kentucky of folks who are committed to public education and bringing us together so that we can all work together in a much more efficient way,” Coleman said.

Kate Howard

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Sunday’s ruling from the 6th Circuit Court Of Appeals and block Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order that closed private religious K-12 schools.

Beshear’s order, meant to curb the surge in coronavirus, bars all K-12 schools, private and public, from holding in-person classes. Danville Christian Academy filed suit and a federal district court judge granted a request for a preliminary injunction preventing the order from impacting private religious schools. Cameron joined the suit on behalf of Danville Christian and private religious schools across the state.

The district court agreed with Danville Christian and Cameron that the order harmed religious freedoms.

screenshot via LMPD Facebook

State Rep. Attica Scott, her daughter Ashanti and at least 17 other protesters were arrested Thursday night on Fourth Street during a standoff of sorts with Louisville Metro Police officers around the property of a Fourth Street church.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, the co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Repression and one of the organizers who has occupied Jefferson Square Park since protests began in May, was also arrested during the standoff.

Rep. Scott was charged with unlawful assembly and first-degree rioting, according to Tracy Dotson, a spokesman for the FOP union representing Metro Correction officers. Her daughter faces similar charges.

J. Tyler Franklin

Health departments across the state have ramped up hiring, and have more than tripled the number of contact tracers Kentucky had since the pandemic began. But by some estimates, the state still has less than a third of what it needs to effectively combat the coronavirus.

The state is up to 1,240 staff members for contact tracing, Mark Carter from the Cabinet for Health and Family services said Wednesday during Gov. Andy Beshear’s briefing.

“We are not quite at our total capacity. We have roughly 130 additional spots that we could fill and we continue to do that,” he said. 

Before the pandemic, the state had 431 contact tracers.

Stephanie Wolf

Gov. Andy Beshear said he believes the mask mandate has put the breaks on the sharp increase in new coronavirus cases seen in July. 

“What the numbers are telling us is that facial coverings and masks are working,” Beshear said during his briefing Monday.

Data provided during the briefing showed the number of new cases jumped up for the first three weeks of July, but slowed after the third week.

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