Bill offering remote instruction days advances

Measure gives districts 'surgical strike' flexibility to make most of remote instruction days

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — Lawmakers in the Kentucky Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would provide up to 10 days of remote instruction in the current academic year and help address critical staff shortages in public schools.

The measure – Senate Bill 25 – passed 31-2 vote and heads to the House for consideration. The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said the high priority for education is to maximize in-person learning as much as possible.

Lawmakers passed a similar measure in 2021 to provide remote instruction days to school districts. However, SB 25 offers the days to particular schools, grades, classrooms, or group of students.

Wise said lawmakers found great compromise through using the “surgical strike” approach with focus on local control.

“These are not non-traditional instruction days,” he said. “These are remote instructional days, which are the equivalent of a day’s worth of education. It is not a packet that is being sent home. These are full instructional days.”

In addition to the instructional component, the bill seeks to curb staff shortages by allowing more retired teachers to return on a full-time basis. It would also allow the use of federal funds to pay for added costs related to teacher shortages.

The legislation is also designed to help stabilize school funding and create conditions for state and local health departments to support local school districts with COVID-19 plans – all while allowing local control on measures such as testing-to-stay and masking, Wise said.

Several floor amendments were filed to increase the number of remote instruction days, but failed to pass on the Senate floor.

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, said the needs of larger school districts may be different than those of small districts. He said he stands with legislators who want the keep students in school as often as possible, and he has concerns about staff shortages that can elevate to being unsafe for the students.

But Yates added that Jefferson County Public Schools is the 29th largest school district in the United States, and the possibility of more remote days would offer flexibility for schools.

Wise responded by saying the extra days would be unnecessary thanks to flexibility that schools have to start earlier in the morning or stay later in the afternoon to make up instructional time.

If passed into law, SB 25 would apply to instructional calendars retroactively, starting back on Jan. 1.

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