Edmonson County Schools

Students in Kentucky, and across the nation, are riding a roller coaster of in-person and virtual learning created by the pandemic.

The superintendent of Edmonson County Schools said his district is ready for the Jan. 4 reopening and changes scheduled to happen one week after that.

Edmonson County students will begin school on Jan. 4 with all remote instruction.  

That’s in line with the governor’s recommendation in case of a spike in COVID-19  cases after the holidays.  

Starting Jan.11, the district will return to the staggered schedule of in-person classes two days a week, for those who choose to be at school, and virtual learning  the other days. 

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.

Facebook/Bowling Green Independent Schools

Educators across Kentucky, and the nation, are facing the challenge of keeping students engaged during virtual learning.

The Bowling Green Independent School District has staff members who reach out to make sure students stay connected during the pandemic.

“We have a lot of adults who are going out in the community every day, knocking on doors, tracking down students and families and trying to figure out where they’re living and why they’re not participating in virtual learning,” said Gary Fields, superintendent of the Bowling Green School District.

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.

J. Tyler Franklin

Private religious K-12 schools will be expected to close Monday, along with public ones, under a ruling from the U.S Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down on Sunday. The panel of judges overturned a lower court decision that blocked Beshear’s executive order from affecting private religious schools.

The appellate court ruling overturns a prior ruling from U.S. District Court judge Gregory Van Tatenhove that had found Beshear’s order impinged on First Amendment rights to religious freedom. Van Tatenhove had sided with Danville Christian Academy and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron in their request for a preliminary injunction blocking the order from impacting private religious schools.

In the Sunday ruling, the appellate court disagreed, on the grounds that the order did not specifically target religious schools.

Creative Commons

Gov. Andy Beshear has appealed a federal court’s decision that he can’t order religious schools to close as a coronavirus precaution.

Attorneys for the state on Thursday asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for an emergency stay stopping the injunction granted by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove on Wednesday. The judge agreed with Danville Christian Academy and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, saying Beshear overstepped when he included religious schools in his order that schools statewide stop in-person instruction for three weeks.

Van Tatenhove expanded the injunction from Danville Christian Academy to all private religious schools in the state. The battle comes as coronavirus cases are at an all-time high, and increasing exponentially.

Owensboro Public Schools

Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order closing schools to in-person learning next week is drawing mixed reactions from school leaders around the state.

The Kentucky Education Association (KEA) praised Gov. Beshear’s decision to close all public and private schools starting Nov. 23, calling it “a step that will save lives.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) Executive Director Jim Flynn said opinions vary among the state’s 170-plus district leaders.

“There are some that are relieved of this, and then I know there are some that are disappointed,” Flynn said.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Department of Education's first ever chief equity officer has experience with adversity, segregation, and public schooling.

The Arkansas native and nationally honored former school superintendent, Dr. Thomas Woods-Tucker, plans on taking those lessons with him to the Bluegrass State.

The Kentucky Board of Education issued a resolution in July declaring its commitment to addressing inequality. It was a move that helped convince Woods-Tucker to take the position.

During a conversation this month WKU Public Radio, just days after starting the job, Deputy Commissioner Woods-Tucker said few other states have taken that step.

A school district in southeastern Kentucky has shut down in-person and virtual learning through the end of November because of the spread of COVID-19. 

Perry County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Jett said in a social media post this week that the continued spike in coronavirus cases has led district leaders to the conclusion that in-person learning isn’t possible for the rest of the month. 

The superintendent said the decision to also shut down virtual classes was made in hopes of adding in-person classes at the end of the academic year in May.

Owensboro Innovation Middle School

COVID-19 has caused many parents in Kentucky to lose their jobs or have their work hours cut back. The financial impact of the pandemic is adding homelessness to the challenge of virtual learning for some Owensboro students. 

Owensboro Innovation Middle School Youth Service Coordinator Amanda Hirtz said she’s working with three families who have suffered job losses during the pandemic, causing them to become homeless between March and August. 

Hirtz said students and families felt comfortable asking for help during these difficult times.


As COVID-19 continues to increase across Kentucky, the state K-12 dashboard asks schools to self-report student and staff cases, as well as the number quarantined.

The online resource shows that nearly 2,000 Kentucky students are currently in quarantine. 

The K-12 COVID-19 Dashboard weekly update also shows new cases statewide include 393 students and 189 staff. 

As for those in quarantine, the weekly update shows 1,976 students and 347 staff.  

Williamson County Schools via Facebook

There will be no negative consequences for schools and teachers related to standardized testing this school year, so long as the Tennessee General Assembly agrees. Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn are calling for the tests to be administered as usual but that the results not be used to judge the education system.

“We can’t fill in the gaps with reading or math or learning loss without understanding where they are,” Lee says. But he adds testing “will have to look different this year.”

Until now, Lee and Schwinn have resisted requests from local districts, including Williamson County Schools, asking for leniency on testing accountability or instructional requirements.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has launched a new interactive dashboard for cases of COVID-19 in grades K-12.

The site went live the week of Sept. 28 and schools are expected to self-report data about the virus.

State health officials want each school to update their information daily, including new COVID-19 cases among students and staff, as well as the number of students and staff in quarantine.

For example, as of Oct. 1, Greenwood High School in Warren County reported new cases among seven students and one staff member. 

Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology Murfreesboro / Facebook

Tennessee’s colleges of applied technology are getting some outside help to address education inequity. That’s thanks in part to the Tennessee Board of Regents expanding an existing community college partnership with national nonprofit Achieving the Dream.

“During such a challenging time, it’s more important than ever to meet uncertainty with resilience, innovation, and a deepened commitment to student success and equity,” says Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream.