Gov. Andy Beshear recommended on Aug. 10 that school districts delay their return to in-person classes until Sept. 28, saying it is a “difficult but necessary step.”
“At my very core, I want us to get back to in-person instruction, but to ask our kids to go in and all of our teachers and faculty at a time when it’s not safe is something that we can’t ask of them,” Beshear said.
Beshear announced this recommendation during a press conference Aug. 10. The announcement came several days after the Kentucky Education Association, which represents 42,000 educators in the state, asked for school districts to begin the school year virtually, as opposed to in-person, due to the ongoing health concerns for students and educators related to COVID-19.
Beshear cited multiple reasons for his decision, one of them being that Kentucky’s number of reported cases has only reached a plateau, or a stagnant number of cases over a period of time. Although Kentucky is no longer in a period of exponential growth in its number of cases, Beshear said, the number of cases reported in Kentucky is still a cause for concern. He said he would only want to resume in-person classes if Kentucky’s rate of COVID-19 cases was on a decline.
Another reason he gave for the decision was the increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported in children under the age of 18. Across Kentucky and the country, he said, there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases being reported in children, particularly 5 years old and under.
“It is a myth that kids do not get this virus,” Beshear said. “It is a myth that kids cannot spread this virus. What we are seeing is a significant increase in the infection rate of our young people and there is an understanding that when they go back to school, they can not only spread this to each other, but also to the faculty and other members of the building. Let us all remember: While there are significantly fewer bad outcomes with kids, there are still bad outcomes.”
Beshear said he also attributed this recommendation to the experiences of other states after they reopened their school districts.
“In some of the same states that rushed to reopen really fast and went through some of the largest surges are also reopening their schools to in-person classes too fast,” Beshear said. “Whether it’;s a couple of schools in Indiana, whether it’s schools across Georgia, we are seeing schools open up for one day, two days, maybe a week, and then shut down. We have to have a plan, and I have to have a recommendation that gives us a real chance of success. This is more disruptive in our opinion, starting and stopping, than a plan that can have an opportunity of success."
The last reason Beshear cited that contributed to his recommendation was how families have continued to travel to known hotspots for the virus throughout the month of August, despite Kentucky’s travel advisory against traveling states like Florida and South Carolina. He said that has also contributed to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the state.
Beshear acknowledged the difficulty of the decision to recommend postponing in-person classes, but he called it a “difficult but necessary step” to take to protect students, families and educators.
“There are good steps that we’ve taken, masks are working, but we do not have control over this virus,” Beshear said. “And to send tens of thousands of our kids back into in-person classes when we don’t have control on this virus, it isn’t the right thing to do for our kids. It’s not the right thing to do for their faculty, and it’s not the right thing to recommend as governor.”