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.

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State officials have released guidelines on reopening schools in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance includes requirements, as well as recommended “best practices,” for schools on social distancing, mask-wearing, cleaning and other measures.

“Necessary does not always equal easy,” Kentucky’s interim education commissioner Kevin Brown said during Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily briefing.

“The expectations that we’re providing today for schools and how to reopen them safely, reduce the risk, that is not easy,” Brown said. “But they are certainly necessary.”

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by several former members of the Kentucky Board of Education who claimed Gov. Andy Beshear violated their constitutional rights when he ousted them shortly after taking office in December. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove dismissed the case Wednesday, ruling that, “the Court finds the Governor’s actions are not contrary to federal law.”

The former board members and their attorney, Steve Megerle, could not be reached for comment by our deadline. But the decision could be appealed to a higher court.

Jess Clark

A historic Black church in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood has suffered damage from gunfire in a shooting neighbors say happened around 1:15 a.m. Wednesday. No one was inside the church at the time of the shooting, and no injuries have been reported.

A spokesman for the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) said authorities have “not ruled out” the possibility the shooting was racially motivated.

“We don’t know that definitively at this point, and certainly we haven’t ruled out that fact,” LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell said.

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Protests across the state and the country against police brutality and structural racism have the attention of Kentucky education officials, including Ky. Lt Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. At Wednesday’s Kentucky Board of Education meeting, Coleman put forward several proposals, including statewide implicit bias training for teachers.

“I feel public education was made to meet the moment,” Coleman said, who is also the secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

“My first proposal is for the Department of Education to partner with schools across Kentucky to develop and implement a very needed implicit bias training for faculties across the across our communities,” she said.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Kentucky state parks, campgrounds and aquatic centers will be allowed to reopen on June 1. The recreational spaces have been closed since March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Tourism is an incredibly important business in Kentucky. We’re taking a big revenue hit from it,” Beshear said. “But that’s not the reason we’re reopening it now. It’s that we believe we can do it safely.”

Beshear said he believes opening parks and campgrounds will help “boost the state’s economy,” and allow Kentuckians the opportunity to travel in-state this summer.

J. Tyler Franklin

A second child has been hospitalized in Kentucky with a rare coronarvirus-related inflammatory disease, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday. During his daily briefing,  Beshear said that the patient is 16 years old, and has been hospitalized out of an abundance of caution. The first Kentucky child to be diagnosed with the syndrome, a 10-year-old, is still in critical condition on a ventilator.

“For these individuals that have this, this is very dangerous and life-threatening,” Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said.

 


Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is warning religious leaders not to rush into restarting in-person worship services, after two federal judges blocked the governor’s orders preventing congregations from gathering to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“People, take your time,” Beshear said. “You don’t want your house of worship to be a place where the coronavirus has spread.”

The governor said Friday that churches could open on May 20, if they followed strict social distancing guidelines and cleaning procedures. In light of the rulings, Beshear said he’s making that guidance effective beginning Saturday.

The guidance requires churches that hold in-person services not to fill their sanctuaries at more than 33% capacity, and to maintain a six-foot space around each worshiper or family unit.

Jess Clark

Despite social distancing orders from the governor and public health officials, protesters are continuing to gather outside a Louisville abortion clinic. On Saturday, about two dozen anti-abortion protesters lined the sidewalk outside EMW Surgical Center in downtown Louisville, one of Kentucky’s two remaining abortion clinics.

Very few were wearing masks or maintaining the six feet of distance the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says helps prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

While one protester who declined to be identified shouted at women through a bullhorn, Daniel Nolan stood by quietly with a Bible. A member of Sovereign King Church of Southern Indiana, he said he comes here often for these Saturday protests.

Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky state senate voted Wednesday night to confirm all but one of Gov. Andy Beshear’s 11 appointees for the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Senators voted not to confirm board chair David Karem, a former state lawmaker, and main driver behind the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Under state law, appointees who are not confirmed cannot serve again for two years, so Beshear will have to find a replacement.

The state board of education has been a stage for political battles in recent years. When Beshear took office in December 2019, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the board of education, which was filled with members appointed by his predecessor, former Gov. Matt Bevin. He then reformed the board with all new members, who are still currently serving. The Senate had until Wednesday, the last day of session, to confirm Beshear’s appointments.

J. Tyler Franklin

 Dozens of protesters gathered outside the state Capitol building in Frankfort Wednesday to protest Gov. Andy Beshear’s closures of businesses in response to the coronavirus.

At times it was difficult to hear the governor’s daily briefing over chants, and what sounded like a horn, blaring outside the Capitol.

“Open up Kentucky!” and, “Let us work!” were some of the chants protesters shouted while gathered in direct defiance of Beshear’s order banning events with more than 10 people. Video footage posted by the Courier Journal shows protesters surrounding the building and standing closer than the recommended 6 feet apart.

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To slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear and other public officials are asking Kentuckians to maintain strict social distancing and stay “Healthy At Home.”

But in a state that leads the nation in rates of child abuse and neglect, home is not always a safe place, especially for children. According to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Kentucky has the highest rate of child maltreatment in the nation: 23.5 child victims for every 1,000 children. That’s more than double the national rate of 9.2 per 1,000.

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The weeks of standardized tests Kentucky schools spend all year preparing are being canceled. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) says the federal government will grant the state’s request to cancel testing for the 2019-2020 school year because of closures and other challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Kentucky Department of Education has been informed by the U.S. Department of Education that we meet the requirements for the waiver of assessment & accountability for the 2019-20 school year and that formal approval is forthcoming. As a result, we are canceling the administration of 2020 K-PREP,” KDE spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman wrote in an emailed statement.

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 Gov. Andy Beshear recommended closing all schools across the state – public and private – to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He’s asking schools to close Monday, and stay closed for at least two weeks.

“This is a big but necessary step,” Beshear said at a press conference Thursday evening.

Beshear joins the governors of Ohio and Maryland in calling for statewide school closures. He said while early research on COVID-19 suggests the virus is not particularly dangerous to children, young people can still catch and transmit the virus to more vulnerable people, like the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

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When Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday that districts need to be ready to close with 72 hours notice, some districts were ready; others were not, based on a sample made by WFPL News.

One of the biggest challenges confronting districts is how to continue providing instruction when their students are not in classrooms.

Many districts already have state-approved plans for continuing instruction during closures, called Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) plans. These districts have already created materials to send home with students during a closure. Many plans include digital instruction. Students who don’t have computer access are supposed to get paper packets at the beginning of the school year, and are encouraged to reach their teachers by phone with questions during the closure.

Jess Clark | WFPL

bill to end corporal punishment in Kentucky schools is facing hurdles clearing a state senate committee, according to advocates for the measure.

House lawmakers passed the ban on corporal punishment 65-17 in February. But supporters of the ban say it’s having trouble getting heard in the senate education committee.

Kentucky Youth Advocates director Terry Brooks said some lawmakers in the committee believe the matter should be up to local school boards.

“Frankly I am a little surprised and disappointed,” Brooks said in an interview.

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