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.

Warren County Public Schools

Warren County Public Schools will soon decide whether to accept new boundaries for its elementary schools.

The WCPS school board will vote at a Feb. 22 meeting on the proposed changes, which impact the boundary lines for a little less than half of the elementary schools in the district.

WCPS communications director Morgan Watson said being one of the fastest growing districts in the commonwealth means the district must re-examine its boundaries every few years.

"Whenever the district looks at the possibility of changing the boundary lines, they look at many things, including the transportation of students to and from the schools, proximity of that available transporation to and from the school. They also look at socio-economic background and future developments of schools, current developments in those areas," Watson said.

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.

Facebook/Warren County Public Schools

Warren County Public Schools will return to full in-person classes on March 1 for K-12 students. 

Superintendent Rob Clayton said in a 'Reopening Update' on Facebook Live on Tuesday that in-person instruction will be Monday through Thursday, with Friday as a virtual learning day for all students. 

Clayton explained why the district is approaching Fridays this way.

"Throughout the school year, we have used this time to collaborate with colleagues, address learning gaps through small group instruction, conduct home visits, and other activities designed to support our students throughout this challenging time,” Clayton said.

The superintendent said that students who choose not to attend in-person can remain in, or switch to, the Virtual Academy. 

Glasgow Independent Schools

After nearly a year of disruptions from COVID-19, a school system in southern Kentucky is returning its youngest students to a full schedule of in-person classes on Monday, Feb. 1. 

Older students will be phased in at a later date.

Glasgow Superintendent Keith Hale said COVID-19 cases are in a plateau, and he feels comfortable sending students back with the proper safety measures in place.

“We know the transmittal rate at the elementary school level is almost non-existent. I think it’s less than one percent," Hale told WKU Public Radio. "We feel good. Our community is wanting their kids in schools and I think it’s time.”

School districts across Kentucky are struggling to keep functioning as COVID-19 forces many teachers and staff members into quarantine.

Logan County educators are among those getting vaccinated in the statewide effort to get schools back to more in-person learning. 

Logan Memorial Hospital received a special allocation of vaccines from the state to vaccinate K-12 personnel in the community.

The hospital said on its website that the Kentucky Department of Public Health is prioritizing the distribution of the vaccine for educators.

Hopkins Co. Schools

More than 969,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to long-term care workers, teachers, and additional frontline health care workers around the Ohio Valley. But a surprising number of workers in some key sectors are hesitant or are refusing to get a shot, including some rural school staff in Kentucky, nursing facility workers in Ohio, and correctional facility employees in West Virginia.

In western Kentucky, some school districts are finding 50% to nearly 70% of school staff are declining the vaccine, for example, and some Ohio nursing facilities struggle to get more than half of the staff to get a shot.

Ohio Health Care Association Executive Director Pete Van Runkle said nursing facilities have begun peer-to-peer counseling to help staff encourage each other to get vaccinated.

Facebook/Owensboro Middle School

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Owensboro Middle School to transition back to virtual only learning.

In announcing the change Thursday, the district said the closure is due to an increase in the number of students and staff who have to isolate, affecting the school’s ability to maintain operations.

It’s part of the roller coaster of scheduling that schools across Kentucky, and the nation, have to deal with in response to the pandemic. 

The district began this month with virtual learning, then transitioned to a hybrid schedule with students divided into “A” and “B” groups, with each group attending in-person two days a week. 

Alexis Marshall | WPLN

The Tennessee legislature approved Thursday a slate of bills meant to improve literacy among students, as well as hold schools harmless during the pandemic. One of the measures headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk allows schools to hold back third graders if they don’t read at grade level.

In Tennessee, about 64% of third graders have not been meeting that standard, according to the state’s education agency.

The proposal to hold back the lowest scorers for one year is meant to improve those numbers, says House Majority Leader William Lamberth.

President Biden has called reopening schools a "national emergency" and said he wants to see most K-12 schools in the United States open during his first 100 days in office, which would be between now and April.

Lisa Autry

Some Kentucky teachers are rolling up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine, and doing so ahead of schedule.  

The state’s rollout for school employees wasn’t scheduled to begin until late Jaunary or early February, but some communities have enough vaccine to let educators and support staff jump to the front of the line.

While the state is still rolling out the vaccine to health care workers and long-term care residents, some counties have moved on to the state’s next phase, which includes educators and all school staff such custodians, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. 

School personnel from Warren and Simpson counties are now getting the vaccine by appointment only at a mass distribution clinic operated by The Medical Center in Bowling Green.

Lori Dubree, the school nurse at Lost River Elementary, this week checked in at the Health Sciences Complex on the Medical Center campus where vaccinations are taking place.

Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University has announced a program aimed at buying out certain workers who want to end their employment. The goal is to adjust the school’s operating budget.

In an email sent to faculty and staff Wednesday, WKU executives said the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program is to “make appropriate workforce  adjustments and create opportunities for organizational renewal and invention.” 

WKU leaders said the incentives for separation or retirement are a result of “the COVID-19 pandemic, declining state support, enrollment changes and other evolving dynamics affecting higher education.”

Facebook/Owensboro Public Schools

Owensboro Public Schools will return to a hybrid schedule with in-person classes beginning Thursday, as school districts across Kentucky continue to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Owensboro Public Schools will have students in the “A” group attend in-person on Monday and Tuesday. Students in the “B” group will be in the classroom Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is an intervention day for students who need extra help.

Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Constant said the current schedule can change, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases.      

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky lawmakers will return to Frankfort on Tuesday for an unusual legislative session in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike most years when committee rooms and galleries can be packed with advocates, lobbyists and other interested parties, access to the Capitol will be limited, though many proceedings can still be accessed on KET’s website.

Legislators will be faced with weighty issues: they’ll need to pass a one-year budget amid uncertainties about how much money the state will bring in, respond to the coronavirus pandemic and Republican leaders say they want to strip Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of his power to respond to the pandemic.

Beshear has said he wants to find new revenue sources for the state during the economic crisis—including initiatives like sports betting and medical marijuana, which have gotten limited support in previous years.

Office of Gov. Bill Lee

Gov. Bill Lee is calling a special session of the legislature to address urgent education issues related to the pandemic.

In an announcement released Tuesday, Lee says that the state expects proficiency in math and English test scores to drop by more than half. In a special session, he says the legislature will equip teachers and school districts with “resources and supports” needed to combat learning loss.

It’s unclear what that will mean in practical terms, though the governor’s office says the bills will address funding, teacher and district accountability for test scores, literacy and teacher pay.