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Illness, quarantine force some Northern Kentucky school districts to go back to virtual

Boone County High School
Posted at 6:11 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 14:51:37-05

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. — Boone County Schools resumed full in-person learning on Monday. By Friday morning, the sheer number of staff members missing class due to illness or COVID-19 quarantine forced the district to shut down completely — no in-person classes, no remote learning.

Virtual classes will resume Nov. 16, according to a letter from superintendent Matthew Turner. Children shouldn't expect to be back in their school buildings until at least Nov. 30.

By Friday afternoon, Kenton County School District also decided to resume virtual classes on Nov. 16 for at least one week at five schools seeing high positivity rates. That district's plan as of Friday afternoon was to return students to the classroom a week later, if possible. Based on that district's testing over the past week of Nov. 9-13, the following five had a positivity rate of higher than 6%, placing it in the "red" category for risk, according to district superintendent, Dr. Henry Webb:

  • Simon Kenton High School
  • Scott High School
  • Twenhofel Middle School
  • Kenton Elementary
  • Taylor Mill Elementary

Covington Independent Public Schools made the decision Friday morning to continue with remote-only learning until at least January.

"When Covington Independent Public Schools communicated with you a few days ago, we were hopeful of having our students return to in-person instruction. Unfortunately, this is not possible at this time," wrote superintendent, Alvin Garrison in an email to parents.

In Boone County, Turner's previous decision to return to in-person teaching went against guidance from the Kentucky Department of Public Health, a fact he acknowledged in another letter to parents.

KDH encourages any county with a COVID-19 prevalence rate of more than 25 cases per 100,000 people to practice extreme caution, allow schools to operate virtually, cancel gatherings and enforce mandatory masking. Boone County, with 51 cases per 100,000 people at last report, far exceeds that threshold.

Nevertheless, Boone teachers, staff and students returned to full-time, in-person learning Monday. Some, including 65-year-old special education teacher Karen Wills, said they felt the district had ignored their clear reservations.

"We must move beyond the absolutism of case numbers and test positivity, and we must prioritize the education and well-being of our students," Turner wrote at the time, adding later: "The COVID-19 incidence rate does indicate the level of infection in our overall county; however, it does not give as clear a picture of the positive infections within our schools."

On Friday, Turner said the district did not have enough healthy staff and teachers to operate as usual.

"The increased community spread of COVID-19 in our county does directly affect the absenteeism of our staff and teachers," he wrote in the new letter.