Beshear defends recommendation to delay in-person classes as some Kentucky schools defy him

Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 12:44 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Gov. Andy Beshear is defending his recommendation for schools to postpone in-person classes until Sept. 28, reiterating its importance the same day he reported Kentucky’s highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases.

“I don’t believe that we gamble or experiment with our kids, and while we are desperate to get our kids back I also want it to work,” he said Wednesday during his COVID-19 briefing.

The governor appealed to parents explaining he “desperately” wants his own kids to get back in the classroom.

“I’m not somebody just sitting over in a governor’s office or in an ivory tower making decisions without knowing the personal toll that it can take and going through the worry I go through every day of them not being there,” he said.

Beshear went on to directly address schools choosing to reopen for in-person instruction, some of them in counties with a 5% to 10% positivity rate for COVID-19. Beshear specifically referenced certain school districts in Warren, Mayfield, and Grant counties. He noted that these schools will be some of the first in the country to start the fall semester.

“Which means we are not going to see the mistakes other schools make and learn from them,” he said. “I’d like to think that while it stirs a lot of passions we don’t want to be the canary in the coalmine with our kids.”

Beshear warned that even the best-laid plans could be overwhelmed by a massive viral outbreak, referencing the economic reopening of Florida, Texas, and Georgia. However, he said his office won’t likely shut down any schools with an executive order.

“If somebody opens and has a huge outbreak and it’s threatening the lives of people we’ll take the steps we have to to protect our kids,” he said.

Beshear later called schools that choose to reopen irresponsible and asked them to reconsider. He said they could face ramifications from parents if there is a coronavirus outbreak and the school does not have a virtual learning program.

“So all we’re asking right now is one month to not make mistakes with the health of our children, their parents or teachers,” he said.

Beshear said schools that choose to reopen should use best practices and have “regular” testing. He made it clear that he does not want them to fail.

“We’re going to learn something from other schools that open. I hope schools that reopen are honest when they have the positives,” he said. “If they’re going to take this step and something happens that they put people’s health first.”

Beshear went on to dispel “false equivalencies” between students gathering at schools and fans gathering at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. He noted that Churchill Downs’ immense acreage allows people to spread out more than a school campus could.

Beshear also addressed private schools that may have to take on an additional financial burden to pursue online learning; he encouraged them to do so.

“As the future goes forward there’s going to be more done remotely whether it’s during the regular school day or otherwise,” he said.

More funding for public schools will be announced soon to “connect” kids to their schools according to Beshear. He added that schools have the option to change school calendars and “eat” into school days to add flexibility.

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