Kentucky school will start in-person despite Beshear’s recommendation

Danville Christian Academy in Boyle County plans to reopen Wednesday to in-person learning, headmaster Jim Ward told the Herald-Leader, despite a request from Gov. Andy Beshear that schools delay face-to-face instruction for about six weeks.

Ward said at the school with 215 students, the largest class has only 20 students.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure our kids have a safe start to the school year and that we continue to be safe,” he said. “We have enough space to be able to socially distance while wearing the masks.”

At Somerset Christian School in Pulaski County, a secretary said that school started Tuesday, but the principal was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Beshear on Monday asked Kentucky schools to delay in-person reopening until Sept. 28 saying he did not think it was safe amid a peak of coronavirus cases.

Several schools decided to follow the recommendation. But Ward said his school would reopen, following federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines. He said the positivity rate is not high like hotspots elsewhere in the state.

“We looked at the data very carefully …in our county and our surrounding counties,” he said.

Ward said in surveys, families were overwhelmingly positive about returning to school in person. He said the school had a disease control plan.

He said the school building had thermal camera kiosks that are going to check temperatures every morning.

The school has a handwashing protocol, masks will be worn, plexiglass dividers will be in the classroom, and they’ve stepped up cleaning, said Ward.

In Lexington, the head of the private Sayre School announced Monday night the decision to follow Beshear’s new recommendation to delay an in-person return until late September.

Sayre previously planned to open Aug. 20 with a hybrid model of in-person half days or alternating days and virtual learning. Officials said the intent was to transition to in-person learning after Aug. 31. The school was also offering a remote option for families who had health issues.

Some members of Sayre’s high school faculty in late July had submitted a petition to the school administration expressing concern about returning to face-to-face instruction.

Head of School Stephen Manella issued a statement after Beshear made his recommendation Monday:

“We have been consistent in stating that we will adhere to the Governor’s recommendations regarding school operations during the pandemic. Therefore, we will shift the entire school to remote instruction for the official start of the year on August 20th,” he said.

“I realize this announcement will be disappointing for many of you. Our campus is in exceptional shape to welcome students back with enhanced health and safety measures. We stand ready for that moment when that day arrives,” Manella said.

Officials from other private schools, including Lexington Christian Academy and parochial schools in the area, many of which had planned on reopening in-person in the next several days, had not commented by Tuesday morning. Tom Brown, Superintendent of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, said he would make an announcement on Wednesday.

The Laurel County Schools district, which would have been one of the first public districts in Kentucky to open in-person Aug. 17, canceled that reopening following Beshear’s recommendation. And Scott County Schools moved its in-person opening to Oct. 12 and its virtual opening to Sept. 8, district officials said Tuesday morning.

Prior to Beshear’s announcement, Fayette County Public Schools had decided to start the academic year virtually on Aug. 26.

The Richmond Register reported that a group named Stand Strong Madison County gathered Tuesday morning in front of the Madison County Schools Central Office to push for a return to in-person learning.

The group wants Madison County Schools to re-open on its originally planned date later this month – not Sept. 28, that newspaper reported.

Madison County Schools spokeswoman Erin Stewart told the Herald-Leader that district administrators were meeting Tuesday morning and a meeting with principals was set for later in the day.

“I believe the superintendent will make a recommendation to our board at their meeting Thursday evening,” Stewart said.

Staff writer Bill Estep contributed to this article.

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.

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