St. Mary's School System in Paducah set to return elementary students back to school on Monday despite the Governor's executive order after a ruling from the courts stating religious schools are exempt.
The St. Mary's School System in Paducah, Kentucky will return elementary students back to school on Monday, November 30 for in-person learning while middle and high school students will remain remote until December 7, according to St. Mary's administrators. This after a judge ruled that Governor Andy Beshear can't order religious schools to stop in-person instruction to protect against the spread of COVID-19. St. Mary's said they're following their sister schools in Owensboro's lead.
The Governor issued an executive order on November 18 requiring all public and private schools to halt in-person instruction until two COVID-19 cycles had passed. Essentially, middle schools and high schools were to return after the Christmas break and elementary schools could return December 7 if their county was no longer in the red zone. The order became in effect just before Thanksgiving break.
Two days after the executive order, Kentucky's Attorney General David Cameron joined a lawsuit led by Danville Christian Academy in the US District Court for the Eastern District claiming that the order shouldn't pertain to religious schools on the grounds of their First Amendment rights. Judge Gregory Van Tatenhoven ruled in favor of the Christian school.
An announcement was made on Friday by the Diocese in Owensboro, Kentucky (the school system to which St. Mary's belongs) regarding their stance. The superintendent of the Catholic schools said that they believed the state is doing what it believes to be in the best interest of the children. However, the diocese believes that their schools are equipped to handle the situation with students returning to school in a safe environment. The letter from the diocese is below.
Governor Beshear has filed a motion for an emergency appeal in the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals stating, "The District Court's Order exempting Danville Christian Academy and other religiously affiliated schools from these public health measures will cause substantial harm to the public that encounters the children and staff of these schools. At this point of the pandemic, in Boyle County, a gathering of 15 individuals, smaller than a class at Danville Christian Academy, has a 37% percent of including an individual with COVID-10. The risk increases with more people."