Students discuss possible January return to in-person classes

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – How to handle in-person learning during the Covid-19 pandemic was the focus of a meeting Tuesday between Kentucky’s education commissioner and high school students from around the state.

Commissioner of Education Jason Glass asked the students, who serve on the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, to give their input on whether schools should reopen to all students at the beginning of January.

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Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order suspending in-person classes for grades 6-12 at public and private schools until January 4.

Grades K-5 were allowed to return Monday, December 7, provided the districts were not in a “red zone county.”

Many of the students spoke out in support of holding off in-person learning until the number of Covid-19 cases in the state decreased, saying going back would increase the likelihood of the virus spreading in the community and put vulnerable populations at risk.

“In Pike County, when we come to school, that’s increasing the risk for our senior citizens because we have a lot of grandparents in Pike County that raise their grandchildren,” says Trevin Bevin, a senior at Shelby Valley High School. “I have a great-grandfather who is still living and I’m not willing to go to school to risk him.”

Other students said the decision on whether to reopen schools should be left up to the individual counties, pointing out that their communities did not have a high rate of infection like other counties.

Some said if it’s left up to individual counties, the decision should be made in conjunction with local health departments.

Other students said parents should also be involved in the decision.

“When we do inevitably open up again, I think it should be left up to the individual counties, and personally, I think it probably should be left up to the parents of the students whether the student should go to school,” said Gavin Bruenig, who attends school in Elizabethtown.

Gracie Smith, who goes to the Kentucky School for the Blind in Jefferson County, agreed, saying many of the students who attend state specialty schools have other health problems and parents should be the ones to decide if they should return to the classroom.

The students also shared concerns about the toll virtual learning was taking on them and their fellow students.

“I do know that a lot of students are struggling to do their school work and, not only doing their school work, but to sit behind a computer screen all day and having little interaction, sitting in the same place every day, all day, is not good for mental health as well,” said Peyton Hall, who goes to Fleming County High School.

Commissioner Glass told the council members that their discussion showed there was no perfect option and the choices that will have to be made are difficult.

“No one wants us to stay in this virtual remote world for any longer than we have to,” Glass said. “We also don’t want to create an environment where anyone is unsafe and we’re at risk.”

To view the full discussion, click here.