FRANKFORT, Ky.—Saying “we shouldn’t want our kids to be the canaries in the coal mine,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged schools in the state to delay reopening in-person classes until late September to provide more time to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Democratic governor said Monday that he wants to get children back in school safely during the pandemic, but acknowledged that the state doesn’t have the virus under control.
“Getting them back (in school) at the height of the pandemic, I think, would be irresponsible,” Beshear told reporters. “So our goal is to ensure that we have our timing right. That we don’t act like some of the states that reopened the fastest and reaped repercussions. And then we shouldn’t want our kids to be the canaries in the coal mine.”
The governor recommended that school districts wait until Sept. 28 to resume in-person classes. Beshear, the father of two children, called it a tough but necessary step as the state comes off an escalation of virus cases in July.
Beshear has aggressively combated the virus with a series of executive actions, including a requirement that most Kentuckians wear masks in public.
“Masks are working but we do not have control over this virus,” he said. “And to send tens of thousands of our kids back into in-person classes when we don’t have control on this virus isn’t the right thing to do for our kids. It’s not the right thing to do for their faculty.”
Schools across Kentucky shut down in-person learning in March as the coronavirus spread.
Heading into the new academic year, at least 30 Kentucky districts had already announced they would start with virtual instruction only, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Other districts were planning to return later in August or early September.
Last Friday, the Kentucky Education Association called on school officials to delay the beginning of in-class instruction until the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate drops.
Beshear said he consulted with school administrators before offering his new guidance.