Ky. school district approves closing during special legislative session

Bullitt County Board of Education
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BULLITT CO., Ky. (WHAS11) -- A school district in our area has become the first to acknowledge they will cancel school so staff can demonstrate the proposed pension plan. The decision is expected to be repeated across the commonwealth and could impact hundreds of thousands of Kentucky families.

Wednesday night, the Bullitt County Board of Education voted to authorize their superintendent to dismiss school in response to an expected large number of teachers calling off work when lawmakers return to Frankfort to discuss Governor Matt Bevin’s pension reform proposal.

Bullitt County is the first, but just about everyone suspects it won't be the last.

Days ago, a state education group called for superintendents to dismiss all schools for a day to protest during the special session.

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The Governor has been critical of this call to action, but the first superintendent openly prepared to act calls it necessary.

"I do believe that many superintendents, probably the majority, will follow suit,” said Keith Davis, Bullitt County Superintendent.

Superintendent Keith Davis expects families in his district will have a few days’ notice if he does have to close schools.

While Governor Matt Bevin could call the Special session at any time, Mr. Davis says Bullitt County expects teachers to call off work for the second day of the Special Session which allows time to prepare.

Wednesday night, the County Board of Education authorized him to close schools if needed.

"The call went out for us to support the teachers and we're answering that call,” said Davis. “Our Board of Education decided that they will support the teachers on their ability to talk to legislators.”

Doctor Tom Shelton, Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, applauded the move in a statement: "We appreciate this school board officially supporting and recognizing the importance of their staff being able to participate in the legislative process.”

Friday night, Governor Bevin criticized Doctor Shelton during a Facebook live video after learning details of the call to close schools. The Governor's office had no new comment after the Bullitt County vote.

A JCPS spokesperson said they had no new answers to questions as to whether they'll follow suit.

The Jefferson County Teacher's Association President spoke with us via phone saying he applauded the move.
"I think the action that the school board took there in Bullitt County is a reasonable one”, said JCTA President Brent McKim.

McKim would not guess whether JCPS will also cancel school during the special session but said, “I'm sure that the leadership of our school district is looking at this. Certainly, many educators care deeply about being able to attract good teachers and may choose to use a personal day, which is their right to do. And keeping the district operating smoothly in that circumstance is certainly an important consideration for the school board and the superintendent.”

Any missed school days would need to be made up. Bullitt County's Board of Education would vote later and likely use a makeup day set aside for weather events when making up for any lost time due to the Special Session.

We're still waiting for word on when the Governor will call the Special Session. Below is the resolution passed by the Bullitt County Board of Education:

Board of Education Passes Resolution for Special Session in Frankfort

By unanimous action, the Bullitt County Board of Education authorized Superintendent Keith Davis the power to close schools for one day if Gov. Matt Bevin calls a special session concerning pension reform.

Here is the text of the Resolution passed by board members and read by Chairperson Debby Atherton at a Nov. 1st special meeting:

WHEREAS the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and Kentucky School Boards Association, among other associations, are discussing encouraging their respective memberships to go to Frankfort in relation to the pending Special Session of the Kentucky General Assembly to be called on Pension Reform; and

WHEREAS such action will likely result in mass absences of school personnel should they opt to take a personal day to participate in appearances in Frankfort;

NOW BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN BULLITT COUNTY, recognizing that an emergency may exist in staffing on any given day during the pending Special Session, does hereby authorize the Superintendent to close school, in his discretion, and take such other necessary and appropriate steps to address such an event in a fiscally sound manner, including thereafter submitting his recommendation for an amended school calendar to account for lost day(s).

A special session has yet to be called by Gov. Bevin.

Bullitt County Public Schools has over 13,200 students in grades preschool through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 900 and a classified staff of over 800 working to make the district the leader in educational excellence.