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.

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.

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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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Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) and former education commissioner Wayne Lewis are calling on the federal government to help expand internet access to all Kentucky students.

“This is not something that states, particularly states like Kentucky, are going to be able to take on all on their own,” Lewis said Monday during a press conference hosted the Walton Family Foundation.

Lewis is serving as the dean of Belmont University school of education in Nashville, after being forced out of his position as education commissioner in December.

Wise, who chairs the state senate’s education committee, said many families struggled in the spring to get online when schools moved to nontraditional instruction, or NTI.

J. Tyler Franklin

A panel of legal experts is warning that the city of Louisville needs to take legal measures to prevent further action by militia groups, including right-wing militias such as the “Three-Percenters” and the NFAC, a new national Black militia.

“This is not protest in America,” Mary McCord said referring to the convergence of opposing militias in Louisville Saturday.

McCord is the legal director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), which helped advise the City of Charlottesville in preventing militia groups from returning after the 2017 Unite the Right rally. She was speaking as part of a panel Wednesday hosted by ICAP and moderated by NPR’s Michel Martin.

Office of Gov. Andy Beshear

Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered Kentucky bars to close and restaurants to go to 25% capacity for two weeks starting Tuesday, Jul. 28 at 5 p.m. to try to curve a rise in cases of COVID-19.

“This is going to hurt a lot of restaurants,” Beshear said Monday. “But the White House’s modeling shows that this is absolutely necessary to control the spread at this time.”

The restrictions do not affect outdoor seating for restaurants.

During his briefing Monday, Beshear said some bar and restaurant-goers have failed to follow guidelines around masks and social distancing. He showed photos of people gathered closely together at Kentucky bars without wearing masks.

Kentucky Dept. of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education has named Jason Glass as commissioner of education, the state’s top K-12 education official. As commissioner, Glass will lead the 1,000 employees at the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), and oversee the state’s public schools, which serve 648,000 students.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve the Commonwealth, and I’m excited to embark on this effort to improve the future for all of Kentucky’s children,” Glass said to the board during a special meeting Friday.

“Our world has become faster, more globally interconnected, more competitive — and these things are not slowing down — they are accelerating,” Glass said. “We have to adapt our education system so that we prepare our students to meet those challenges.”

Creative Commons

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.”

ONA News Agency/Wikimedia Commons

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.

governor.ky.gov

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.

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