Flu finds it way through eastern Kentucky schools

Published 4:51 pm Monday, December 12, 2022


Superintendents from school districts impacted by the July flooding in eastern Kentucky said during a Tuesday virtual superintendents huddle they continue to struggle with low student attendance, first due to the flooding and now due to illnesses.

Perry County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Jett told Kentucky Department of Education leadership, “Attendance is terrible right now, we’re dealing with a lot of sickness.” He said it is at about 78%.

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With significant numbers of staff and students absent due to illness, Jett said turning to Non-Traditional Instruction, or NTI days, might not be possible because there is no way to make sure all students can get their Chromebooks, normally left at the school.

“I thought about trying to do NTI days and virtual,” he said, “but getting those devices out to kids who are sick and the teachers not being there to know which student gets which device, that’s a challenge.”

“We’re about 84% or 85% attendance,” noted Letcher County Superintendent Denise Yonts. “We’re having the same problems and seeing the same issues.”

Brent Hoover, superintendent of Knott County Schools, said his district’s attendance had been low throughout the year. “The highest our attendance has been since we started school this year was 88%, and that was only for two days.  We’ve been running 84% to 87% prior to sickness,” he said.

Hoover said his attendance reached as low as 71% last week.

Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass said he and Kentucky Department of Education staff are dedicated to working with lawmakers when they convene in January, to see what kind of flexibility can be given to the districts that are struggling with high absentee rates as several viruses continue to spread across the state.

“We’ll do what we can to advocate for more flexibility,” Glass told the group. “We need a statutory change for adjusted average daily attendance, it’s written in the state law.”

In accordance with current state law, KDE provides a yearly funding stream to districts based on adjusted average daily attendance as reported on the Superintendent’s Annual Attendance Report, which provides a summary of each district’s attendance data for the entire school year.

Education Department leadership is scheduled to hold another huddle for superintendents from the flood-impacted districts on Dec. 20.