Fayette, Clay, Leslie now in ‘red,’ schools weighing options

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fueled in part by increases in coronavirus cases among University of Kentucky students, Fayette County is now in the “red’ category o the state’s incidence map with a rate of 26.1 cases per 100,000 population.

The state’s color-coded system recommends school districts in the ‘red’ use only virtual instruction, which is what Fayette currently is doing. The school board last week put off making a decision on returning to in-person classes until early next month.

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Fayette joins three other districts in the region in the ‘red’ category. Estill County has been in the ‘red’ for almost two weeks and had a 48.1 rating Wednesday. Leslie County moved in to the ‘red’ this week at 26 while Clay moved in at 28.7.

Wednesday, Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk e-mailed stakeholders with an update:

Dear FCPS Families:

Fayette County Public Schools has been working closely with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department to monitor community spread of COVID-19 with the goal of returning to in-person learning. Our schools have been hammering out specific plans to bring smaller groups of students back to campus with a hybrid model that alternates cohorts of students between online and in-person learning. As outlined in our Reenvisioning, Reimagining and Renewing plan, the Fayette County Board of Education was scheduled to reassess public health conditions and made a determination on Sept. 28 about which instructional model is appropriate for the next six weeks.

In a conversation with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department this week, we learned that there was a lag in data entry causing the state’s “COVID-19 Current Incidence Rate” map to reflect fewer cases than our community had actually been experiencing. Since that time, we have been in conversation with state and local health officials to determine the implications for our school district if Fayette County were to move from orange to red.

We learned, like the rest of the state, yesterday afternoon that Fayette County had officially received a “red” rating. Our understanding is that the increase in the incidence rate is directly linked to cases among University of Kentucky students. We have made contact with officials at the University of Kentucky to learn more about whether those cases are within an isolated UK cohort, or indicative of a wider community spread.

At this time, we are still gathering information. It is critical that decisions be grounded in facts and not be swayed by speculation or political posturing. Every decision we make will be with the safety of students, staff and families we serve in mind. We will hold a special called board meeting on Friday morning to hear more from public health experts to better inform our next steps.

Your Partner,

Manny