Schools statewide to return to all-virtual instruction Monday

Heath Cartwright

Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday announced several guidelines for schools, restaurants and businesses following a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases statewide and an extended period where more than 80% of the state’s 120 counties has been listed at the red level of COVID-19 incidence.

Middle and high schools’ instruction will be totally virtual or at-home beginning Monday with the possibility of reopening for in-school instruction on Jan. 4. Elementary schools — including Caldwell County Primary School — will have at-home instruction starting Monday with the possibility of reopening for in-school instruction on Dec. 7.

That is dependent on those schools’ counties being out of the red level of incidence rate.

The red level indicates more than 25 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days. Thursday’s incidence rate map released by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services shows 112 counties at that level, or 93.3% of all Kentucky counties.

Caldwell County — which has been at the red level since Oct. 28 — was listed at 59.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Kentucky reported 2,753 new confirmed cases and 15 virus-related deaths Wednesday. A 15-year-old-girl from Ballard County with “some pre-existing conditions” died earlier this week. The Bluegrass state’s five highest daily totals since the beginning of the pandemic have all been in the past week.

Caldwell County Interim Superintendent Heath Cartwright said while the in-school shutdown was disappointing,

“Unfortunately, we were seeing positive trends in our schools,” he said. “With the number of positive cases and quarantines, we were seeing a significant decline. But, we know that the health of our community is more than just the school district, so the numbers in Caldwell County did put us in the red category.”

On Monday, the Pennyrile District Health Department reported three students and two school staff members being placed in isolation — presumably testing positive for the coronavirus — while 98 students and eight staff members had been placed in quarantine for close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Cartwright explained the situation that would have to be present for elementary school students to able to return on Dec. 7.

“Our county would have to be out of the red county classification, and that would be based on the Thursday prior to the week of Dec. 7,” he said. “So, that would mean that we would have to be out of the red on Dec. 3.”

Caldwell County schools began the year with all-virtual instruction on Aug. 24, then moved to the district’s original hybrid plan for instruction on Sept. 14. That plan has those students whose parents approved for them to have in-school instruction divided into two groups, with one group going to school on Monday and Wednesday and the other group going on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday was an at-home instruction day for all students.

The district went to a five-day-a-week plan on Oct. 19, then returned to the hybrid plan on Nov. 2 as local COVID-19 numbers began to rise significantly. On Monday, the district will return to an all-virtual instruction plan.

Piper Hudspeth Blackburn of the Associated Press contributed to this article.