School districts get flexibility with online teaching, counting attendance

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state Board of Education Friday approved two changes to give school districts flexibility in measuring student attendance and unlinking state funding from attendance.

The changes had been approved Thursday by the Local Superintendents’ Advisory Council .

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The attendance amendment will let schools move as needed between in-person teaching and remote learning. It would even let some students learn from home while others attend school, said interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown.

“It does not provide an incentive or a disincentive for you to do that,” Brown told superintendents.

Current law on funding only covers situations in which every student is at school, or in which school buildings are closed and every student is learning remotely, said KDE Interim General Counsel Todd Allen. Normally, schools are limited to just 10 days of non-traditional instruction (NTI) each year.

When schools were allowed to use unlimited NTI in spring 2020 due to COVID-19, districts around the state reported weekly student participation above 90% – close to normal, said David Cook, division director in KDE’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support.

Previous emergency memoranda and Senate Bill 177 (2020) decoupled current attendance from SEEK funding, Allen said. Districts were allowed to use either their 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 attendance records for calculating SEEK funding.

The proposed amendment extends those provisions through the upcoming school year, he said. They would go into effect immediately upon approval by the KBE and filing with the Legislative Research Commission, Allen said.

The extension will let school districts better predict what state funding they’ll get, Brown said. Last school year, 14 districts opted to use 2019-2020 attendance data to calculate funding for the upcoming year, while the other 157 districts in Kentucky fell back on their 2018-2019 data, said KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney.

Cook said the amendment lays out four options to record daily student participation for learning through non-traditional instruction: through a video chat or phone call, in a group chat, by noting time spent on learning management systems, or through submission of work on paper. Participation for in-person students will be their presence at school.

Kinney said districts can report that data through Infinite Campus. More information will be posted on the KDE website and KDE staff will help districts comply, she said.

Policies will be tweaked further as fall unfolds, Kinney said.

Waivers of other rules are likely as new issues crop up, Brown said.