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.

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.

Steven Lilley; Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Creative Commons

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.

Flickr/Creative Commons/BES Photos

 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.

Creative Commons

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.

Creative Commons

State lawmakers have proposed changing Kentucky’s new 5-star school rating system.

bill filed by Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) proposes changes to graduation requirements, grading metrics and how schools are identified for turnarounds. Givens said the bill is an “update” to the 2017 legislation that created the accountability system.

“This continues to refine that in very positive ways,” he said. “And that’s the motivation for the bill.”

Kentucky LRC

bill filed by Kentucky Senate president Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) would take away the power of the governor to reorganize the state board of education. The bill would likely prevent future wholesale ousters of board members, like the one carried out by Gov. Andy Beshear.

When Beshear took office, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the Kentucky Board of Education. The board’s members were all appointed by Beshear’s political rival, former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Beshear replaced the Bevin-appointees with his own, and now the dueling boards are duking it out in the courts.

Creative Commons

The state’s first charter school applicant, River Cities Academy, lost its appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education. The board decided Tuesday not to overturn a decision by Newport Independent Schools to deny the group a charter.

A group of parents in Northern Kentucky wanted to open the state’s first charter school, called River Cities Academy (RCA), pulling students from six districts along the river. According to the application, the school was to serve a “diverse learner population” in grades K-8, and focus on closing the achievement gap through experiential learning.

J. Tyler Franklin

Governor Andy Beshear has signed a bill into law requiring all Kentucky school resource officers, or SROs, to carry a gun.

“The threats to our children in our schools is very real,” Beshear said, citing incidents where guns were found on school campuses, a thwarted school shooting plot in Shelby County, and the 2018 shooting in Marshall County.

“I simply cannot ask a school resource officer to stop an armed gunman entering a school without them having the ability to not only achieve this mission, but also to protect themselves,” he said.

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