Oldham County dad, educator writes letter begging Beshear to re-open schools

Oldham County dad, educator writes letter begging Beshear to re-open schools

OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. (WAVE) - As students log-in to virtual learning again after Thanksgiving break, one father and educator is calling on Governor Andy Beshear to reconsider closing in-person learning.

Eric Davis of Oldham County wrote a letter to Beshear Tuesday and posted it to Facebook.

He said the letter is not a political statement, but rather about students’ educations. He’s concerned for kids statewide, both in terms of learning and their mental health.

Oldham County Schools had the option for in-person learning until a few weeks ago when case numbers spiked. The district temporarily switched to Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) and was planning to go back to in-person learning after a few weeks when cases decreased. Before they could return in-person, Beshear announced all schools in Kentucky will stay in remote learning until Jan. 4.

As an educator and father of three, with two of his kids in school, Davis says switching to full-time NTI has been hard.

“Kids were just not made to learn over a computer, especially our youngest learners, especially in the way of literacy,” Davis said.

Davis said since Beshear’s announcement to restrict schools from holding in-person classes in mid-November, he’s been thinking about writing a letter to express his concerns. He has worked in education as a teacher, principal and school administrator for years, and he said he sees the impact remote learning is having on students.

“[On Tuesday], watching my daughter struggle and struggle while having the support of parents who is an educator and take the time to work with her, while some parents just don’t have the opportunity to do that because they have to be at work that doesn’t allow them to take their kid, or is a single family home. There’s just so many things that’s driven me to realize that in-person school is essential, and it really does come down to that,” Davis told WAVE 3 News.

In a letter posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Davis said he understands the virus’ impact, as his mom has COPD and has quarantined since March.

“I recognize and totally respect everything about the virus and how dangerous it can be, but I also believe we must take mitigating measures that balance,” Davis said. “I balance that in my own life with pushing for kids being in school versus saying everyone stay home for the protection of my mom. and it is hard. it’s an internal struggle. I’ve had this conversation with her personally.”

Davis said it’s been hard because his mom hasn’t seen her grandkids much, but he also believes it’s important to keep schools open.

He told WAVE 3 News he’s concerned about children’s mental health, in specific areas like learning social interaction. He’s also concerned about children falling behind in their curriculum.

“A year of loss in instruction for many kids cannot be recovered,” Davis said. “I truly believe that. I’ve seen it with kids who have missed things in the past.”

He said none of this is the teacher’s fault. In fact, he’s watched his kid’s teachers go above and beyond to help students and he knows teachers across the area are doing the same for their students.

“I hope that this does not ever come at a shot at a teacher because it’s simply not one,” Davis said. “In fact it’s a bode of confidence for what they are doing and what they can do in person.”

Davis said he would like the state to allow school districts and local health departments make decisions about opening or closing schools based on where their districts are for numbers.

You can read Davis’ full letter below:

“Hon. Andy Beshear, Governor

Commonwealth of Kentucky

Dear Governor Beshear,

As I write this letter, my 6-year-old daughter sits across from me at my desk. With headphones on and eyes glued to the computer screen, she’s doing her best to learn 1st grade content. My daughter’s teacher, who I actually hired when I was the principal at the elementary school, is a rockstar. The hours that she, and the thousands of other teachers across the state, has put in trying to make “virtual learning” effective is a testament to an educator’s flexibility and unwavering determination to help children grow. From my time as a classroom teacher, principal, and now district-level administrator, I recognize the power educators hold in shaping the future of our commonwealth. After your signing of executive order 2020-969, that power has been decimated.

Facebook is hardly the place to have meaningful discourse or post a letter to the governor. However, after scouring your website, there is no option to submit feedback or contact your office directly. With over 3,000,000 constituents, the chances of this letter ever making it to your desk are practically zero. However, writing has always been an outlet for me to express my thoughts. And when it comes to balancing necessary mitigation strategies with the loss of millions of hours of meaningful instruction, I have thoughts.

Before getting too far into this letter, I want to put to bed any notion of this being a political statement. It doesn’t matter who I voted for. Let’s, for a moment, assume Governor Bevin had won re-election and had signed a similar executive order. The only difference between this letter and the one I would have written to him would be the name at the top of the paper. When it comes to the education of nearly a million students across our state, two of which are mine (and a 3rd one coming), I don’t care if you’re left, right, up, or down. Also, it’s vital that I shut down any thought that Covid doesn’t pose a significant threat to the lives of those I love. My mom, for whom I’d lay down my life, has COPD. I know, without a doubt, that contracting Covid-19 would place her life at serious risk. She knows this too, which is why she has barely left her house for the past eight months. Covid is not a hoax, the flu, or “fake news”. It’s incredibly dangerous and to say anything different is negligent. But, closing schools is the wrong mitigation strategy and the experts are finally beginning to see this too.

I could continue this communication by referencing the CDC’s recommendation to keep schools open or quote Dr. Fauci’s conclusion that students don’t transmit the disease at an even remotely high level. But, there is no doubt you know all of that already. You know that the director of the CDC says schools are the safest places for children during the pandemic. In recent days, you’ve seen mayors on the left (De Blasio, NYC) and governors on the right (DeSantis, Florida) openly discuss the need for schools to be open. Again, politics should have no place in this discussion. None.

From my first day as a teacher, I made a commitment to do what I thought was best for kids. As you can imagine, during my tenure as a principal and now as a district administrator, that commitment has been challenged by the wants and desires of adults - my own preferences included. Yet, standing up for the needs of children is something I will never shy away from - regardless of what the adults in my life may think. The loss of nearly a year of in-person instruction is too much. Stripping kids away from their peers, in-school mental health services, and a plethora of other vital resources will create deficits that may never be recovered.

Frankly, the executive order to close schools was wrong on November 18 and it’s wrong today. The answer is to return decision making powers to local boards of education, superintendents, and county health departments. I can tell you, from personal experience, that district administrators are fully capable of collaborating with our local health department to make decisions. We may need to intermittently close a classroom, school, or even the whole district to fight this virus. Trust us to do so.

I’d love to continue, but my daughter needs help with her math work.

Respectfully,

Eric A. Davis

Father & Educator”

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