Catholic schools, others to open with in-person classes, Beshear calls it ‘unsafe’

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Catholic schools in Lexington and acoss the state joined some other private and public schools in announcing Wednesday they plan to go ahead and open in-person classes as early as next week.

Gov. Andy Beshear, who had urged schools to open but to do so with online instruction at least though Sept. 28, said he doesn’t believe the decisions are “safe” but he said he wasn’t going to issue orders blocking the moves.

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In a letter to parents and schools, four bishops of all the diocese in Kentucky sent a letter to the governor with their districts’ plans. And in a letter to Lexington Catholic families Wednesday, schools Superintendent Tom Brown touched on a variety of factors that went into the decision.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments, either system-side or at individual schools, as needed. In addition, during the week of September 6, all four Dioceses of the Commonwealth will conduct an evaluation of our experience to date and will make any needed changes. As we move forward, I want to thank our parents for your support of your schools,” Brown wrote.

“We will rely on the careful attention to our “Healthy at School” guidance by parents, teachers, and administrators, and I encourage parents to focus on the important principles outlined in the School Re-entry Plans: mask wearing, hygiene, social distancing, health checks, staying home if sick. We know we can count on everyone’s support and compliance as we gather again for another year of Catholic school education,” he continued.

Lexington Catholic High students have a virtual learning option.

During his daily briefing Wednesday, Beshear said he wished the Catholic schools and others would wait and start with online teaching.

“I disagree with their decision. I don’t believe it is safe, I don’t believe it is a responsible decision,” the governor said.

But he added, “I want their plan to work when they open, I hope they are safe.”

“I still am just asking for one month to protect the health and lives of students and teachers…how much difference can a month make…let’s step back and make sure we are doing the right thing, let’s be wise,” he said at another point, suggesting by waiting, Kentucky schools could learn from mistakes schools in other states are making by rushing to open.

He said it’s particularly worrisome since Kentucky has the highest percentage per capita in the country of grandparents taking care of children. Those grandparents are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

“I don’t want our students to be the canary in the coal mine,” he stated.

When asked why schools are different than a big box store or the Kentucky Derby, which plans to have some 20,000 people in three weeks, Beshear cited several points., including the long-term closeness of students, even with social distancing and the outdoor nature of the Derby.

“But in the end, isn’t one month worth waiting to see where we are?” he asked.

“I’m not worried about being right,” he added. “I’m worried about being safe.”

When asked what might make him issue an order closing a school or a school district, Beshear stressed that wasn’t likely to happen.

But he said a school or district that had a widespread outbreak and then tried to hide it or didn’t act responsibly to address it could force his hand.

“I really hope we don’t end up there,” he concluded.