Clinton Lewis | WKU

Monday marked the first day of the fall semester at Western Kentucky University.

Like schools across the country, COVID-19 safety precautions and restrictions are in place, and WKU students have been given choices on attending classes in-person, or studying remotely.

Just ahead of the start of the semester, WKU President Timothy Caboni spoke to WKU Public Radio about the school’s approach to conducting the elements of higher education amid a pandemic.

Warren County Public Schools

Many Kentucky schools will welcome public school students next week for the first time in five months.  In March, the coronavirus sent students home to finish the school year online, and while many are ready to return to the classroom, a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases among children is complicating school reopening plans. 

Still, some traditional signs of getting back to school are being seen in communities throughout the commonwealth.

Mary Osborne and her daughter, Lillie, recently teamed up for a little back-to-school shopping at TJ Maxx in Bowling Green.  Lillie picked out leggings from the racks.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

For the second time, Gov. Bill Lee has changed his position on whether the state should release information regarding cases of COVID-19 in schools.

At a press conference Tuesday, Lee told reporters the state is erring on the side of privacy.

“It’s a balance,” Lee said. “It’s really important that people in a school district can’t figure out which children individually have a case.”

During the press conference, Lee and Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey initially cited federal health privacy laws — known as HIPAA — as a reason for not sharing data on school districts experiencing outbreaks or positive cases.


Less than a week before the new school year starts, the superintendent of the Bowling Green Independent School District, Gary Fields, has tested positive for COVID-19. 

"On Friday, when I spoke to the Board of Education about returning to school, I said a reality of the current time is that positive cases of COVID-19 will occur and there will be times when students and staff are isolated or quarantined," Fields wrote in a Facebook post. "At the time of that statement, I did not realize how close that reality would be for me."

In a statement, Fields said he had an anti-body test on Thursday morning as a free service offered to all school district employees.  That afternoon, Fields was told he tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, but there wasn’t a need for him to isolate unless he developed symptoms.  He then received a nasal swab test, and on Monday evening, Fields says he learned the second test was positive.

Student Journalists Document the Pandemic in Appalachia

Aug 18, 2020
Madison Buchanan

“Hello,” the call began. “This is a prepaid debit call from an inmate at the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

Madison Buchanan, a 19-year-old college student, pressed 0 to accept the call and was connected to Jacob Alan Shouse, Offender Number 1101441.

“I want to thank you so much for helping me out with this,” Buchanan said.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine,” Shouse replied. “I’m all about new friends, new advocates, activists, anything positive.”


The Warren County Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Monday to approve a new school reopening plan.

The district had to regroup recently after Gov. Andy Beshear recommended districts postpone in-person classes until Sept. 28.

In a webcast Friday afternoon, Superintendent Rob Clayton unveiled a compromise proposal that includes a hybrid schedule with both in-person and online instruction.  The first day of classes for Warren County students remains Aug. 24.  Clayton said the Barren River District Health Department supports his decision to proceed with in-person classes, and added the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Warren County has been declining the past 30 days, according to local data.

Bowling Green City Schools

As parents struggle over whether to send their children back to in-person classes or keep them home for remote learning during the pandemic, the Bowling Green Board of Education Friday afternoon approved Superintendent Gary Fields’ recommendation to begin the school year on Aug. 24, with both options.

The reopening plan for the Bowling Green Independent School District offers a hybrid model, with half the students attending on alternating days for in-person classes, called the Purple/Gold Schedule. Those students will also have remote-learning, called Non-Traditional Instruction or NTI, on Fridays.

Parents have the option of choosing all remote learning called the Virtual Academy. 

Stephanie Wolf

Gov. Andy Beshear said masks and social distancing efforts have prevented an exponential increase in coronavirus cases, but that the rate of positive cases is still too high for schools to reopen.

Earlier this week, Beshear recommended that schools delay in-person instruction until at least Sept. 28.

During a news briefing Thursday, Beshear said that based on the current level of the virus in the state, “just about any school district” would have a challenge reopening right now.

“If it’s places where they don’t have a lot of testing, I’m worried about when they will find out exactly how much spread could have occurred,” Beshear said.

Creative Commons

On the same day that Kentucky hit a new record for the number of COVID-19 cases, the Hardin County Board of Education voted Wednesday evening to proceed with in-person classes.  

The school district, with 14,600 students, is planning to begin the academic year on Aug. 24 by offering traditional classroom instruction, as well as a virtual academy.  That was the district’s original plan before Gov. Andy Beshear advised districts to postpone in-person classes until Sept. 28. 

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown has said school systems could face a state shutdown if they defied the governor’s recommendation.  John Wright, Director of Public Relations for Hardin County schools, says the board’s 4-1 decision reflected what most families in the district wanted.

Kentucky school districts are going back to the drawing board as they prepare to reopen under the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andy Beshear has recommended that school districts not resume traditional in-person classroom instruction until September 28, and instead begin the school year remotely. 

Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton issued a statement on Tuesday calling the governor's recommendation a surprise.

"The negative impact on our most vulnerable students along with the harships it will create for our working families and the industries they serve are insurmountable," wrote Clayton.

TN Photo Services (File)

At least four school districts in Middle Tennessee that recently reopened are now struggling with new cases of coronavirus.

This has caused some of their schools to close until further notice. But Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey says that might be an overreaction.

Piercey told WPLN News in an interview Monday that districts closing schools due to coronavirus cases might not be following the state’s guidelines on school reopening.


flickr/Emory Maiden

Gov. Andy Beshear is recommending that Kentucky schools postpone in-person classes until Sept. 28.

Beshear announced the recommendation during his Monday briefing. It followed a meeting with school superintendents earlier in the day. By preemptively delaying in-person sessions, he said schools can avoid the disruption caused by sudden closures due to positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

“We are making what we believe is a realistic recommendation,” he said. “It’s a tough one, but one we believe it can give us some success. It is one where we are not going to simply say two weeks from now… and then delay it two weeks from then and potentially prevent school systems from taking some steps to do the best they can to educate our kids, even if it’s remotely during that period.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The first monument honoring a woman is headed to the Kentucky State Capitol.  

Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman announced this week that a statue of Barren County native Nettie Depp will be unveiled in August 2021.

Depp was a pioneer in education as a teacher and principal.  She was also elected school superintendent in 1913, seven years before women earned full voting rights.  

“A failure to observe women in places of honor narrows the vision of our youth and reveals a lack of understanding of American history regarding women’s work, sacrifice, and the immeasurable and timeless contribution to society’s advancement," stated Coleman.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Not only will Tennessee now track the cases of COVID-19 in schools across the state, but it is expected to make the information public.

The latest transparency reversal from Gov. Bill Lee’s administration was announced Tuesday.

Lee told reporters the state is working on a plan to make the information public while protecting the privacy of teachers and students. The details, however, are still unclear.

“We will give you a plan within a week of what information it is that we are going to provide, with the intent of being more transparent so that communities know what’s happening in schools with regard to COVID,” Lee said.

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.