(*Note: This article has been updated to add statements made in a separate video from the Lake Cumberland District Health Department)
Somerset Mayor Alan Keck is expressing frustration over the new school reopening guidelines brought forward by Governor Andy Beshear and promoted by Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin C. Brown.
In a separate video released by the Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD), health officials recommended schools follow the Governor’s suggestions while expressing the hope that those schools which move forward with in-person learning prove that schools’ precautions are good enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a Facebook message sent out Wednesday, Keck likened the Governor’s new recommendations to “moving the goalposts” and urged residents who dislike the delay of in-person classes to let Frankfort leaders know.
“When are we going to stand up boldly and courageously and get back to life as we know it?” Keck asked. “I understand this virus is scary. I understand that there’s not one particular solution that is perfect, but we don’t live in a world where that’s the case.”
In contention is the governor’s recommendation that schools delay in-class education until September 28, a recommendation made Monday and which ran counter to plans many of the state’s school districts had put in place to open their doors this month.
Many districts had made plans to offer parents the option of sending their children to school or receiving instruction at home. Somerset Independent and Pulaski County Schools had planned on bringing students who opted for in-person learning into the buildings on August 24, the first day of school.
But the governor’s remarks have caused both districts to make the decision to start the school year with distance learning education only, rather than try to delay the start of school for what would be the second time.
Even before this week’s changes, the Science Hill Independent district had already opted to hold its first day of school later – September 9. The school’s reopening plan also included options for students to choose either in-person classes or distance learning.
The Science Hill Board of Education will hold a special-called meeting Tuesday to determine how it will proceed.
Keck stated when the original delay was announced last month that he disliked the decision. Wednesday’s remarks took it a step further with the call to action.
“Make those phone calls. Let the folks in Frankfort know that you’re upset with this decision. Stand with me, and let’s see if we can get our kids back to school sooner. And if not, let’s ensure that they go back at the end of next month,” Keck said.
He said he felt like locally the residents have done their part at trying to “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of the virus.
“Yet here we are again, changing the rules, if you will, for our kids. Having to explain to my children why they don’t get to go back, and it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
He added that many working parents would be faced with economic hardships, having to scrabble to find safe child care.
He ended his address by telling residents to thank their teachers and school administrators who are working through this time.
In the health department’s weekly address shown via YouTube, LCDHD Director Shawn Crabtree said his concerns came from not knowing how quickly the coronavirus could spread through schools, and that having one positive case could result in having many students and teachers quarantined.
The proof could come from those schools that open to in-person classes despite the governor’s requests. Crabtree said he knew that several private Christian schools within the district were going ahead with in-person learning.
“We will certainly find out a lot over the next few weeks how quickly this spreads in a school setting,” Crabtree said.
“… Personally, I hope that all the precautions work, and that we will learn that you can have school without it spreading, without it becoming a turbocharged transmission place where it’s spread very quickly.”
He added that after more information is known, superintendents and health officials will be able to make better informed decisions in the next quarter or semester of the school year.