Local school superintendents Dr. Deanna Ashby and Leonard Whalen are glad to have funding for full-day kindergarten pass in the Kentucky legislature.
“We as superintendents and districts across Kentucky have wanted full-day kindergarten funded for years,” said Ashby, superintendent for Hopkins County schools.
The Kentucky House and Senate passed House Bill 382 on Tuesday which allocated $140 million to fund all-day kindergarten, which will go into effect for the upcoming school year.
The Senate passed the bill with a 36-1 vote and then the House passed it with a 90-3 vote. The bill now goes to Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear for a signature or a veto. The legislature would not be able to override a veto from the governor.
The Hopkins County School District has been offering full-day kindergarten for 19 years and has been supporting half of it with other funds from the school, said Ashby.
Eydie Tate, the chief financial officer for Hopkins County Schools, said they do not believe the new full-day kindergarten funding would affect any other state funding, but because the ruling is so new, they are not ruling anything out.
She estimated Hopkins County School District would receive around $800,000 to fund kindergarten. As for what they plan to do with the money they were using to fund kindergarten, they haven’t determined that yet.
“We would have to evaluate our budget,” said Tate. “I think creating opportunities to use those funds to meet the needs of those kids and hopefully target any gaps that we might have in learning loss for those kindergarten students brought on by COVID-19.”
Whalen — superintendent of Dawson schools — said full-day kindergarten has been offered for several years within the system. He does not know what impact the extra money will have on the district yet, but they will be looking into it.
“We will put it to the best use we can, but at least it will offset some of the costs we have had moving forward,” he said.
The bill only funds one year of full-time kindergarten. Whalen and Ashby said they hope the state legislature will continue to funding in the future because early childhood education is important.
“Preschool and kindergarten are the first time students ever come to school, and it lays the foundation,” said Ashby.
In other Dawson Springs School news, Whalen announced March 23 the school would be postponing all athletics and extracurricular activities until Monday, April 12 due to some positive COVID-19 tests within the school.
“We decided to do that to try to lessen some of our numbers moving forward,” said Whalen.
A couple of the athletic teams had to be quarantined because of a few positive cases he said. The rest were contacts who quarantined. Those students and staff are now back and the school is still conducting in-person learning.
Sadly, Kentucky ranks among the 10 worst states for child abuse and neglect in the nation, said Lydia Long, director of women’s and children’s services at Baptist Health Madisonville.
With those statistics in mind, the hospital is taking steps to better educate parents to help bring those numbers down.
Baptist recently received a grant to purchase a shaken baby simulator doll to show parents who have given birth at the hospital how a baby could be harmed if shaken.
“The doll will provide a visual for the patient and support person when the nurse is giving discharge instructions on shaken baby syndrome,” said Long.
In conjunction with Baptist Health Foundation Madisonville, the hospital applied for a micro-grant through the Community Foundation of West Kentucky said foundation Director of Philanthropy Austin Elliott.
The community foundation funds six different areas of interest — including health awareness, which is the category the simulator doll falls into, he said.
Long said new parents watch a video on shaken baby syndrome as well as receive written information that a nurse goes over with the parents. With the doll, a nurse can show exactly what areas on the baby are affected when the baby is shaken.
“When the baby cries, the nurse will shake the baby doll, and in just a matter of seconds, the affected sections of the brain light up and it will illustrate when brain damage has occurred,” said Long.
She said the parents should see for themselves what could happen instead of a nurse trying to explain it.
“For the areas that light up, the nurse can tell them what it affects — vision, speech, mobility,” said Long. “It becomes real to the patients.”
The main trigger for caregivers shaking an infant, according to Long, is crying. The mortality rate for babies with shaken baby syndrome is 20 to 30%, and long-term morbidity for disability is up to 90%.
“Disabilities can include learning, emotional, behavior, speech and language delays, vision, hearing, hormone and growth problems,” said Long. “The severity of the disability can range from mild to permanent vegetative state.”
The doll will be used along with the video and handout on shaken baby syndrome, she said.
“As things arise for us to support, we can do so with that additional funding,” said Elliott.
From a personal experience, Elliott said he remembered watching the video with his wife after his two children were born and believes the doll will be more impactful for new parents.
“It is better to see first-hand rather than just watch a video of the affects,” said Elliott.
Long said the hospital does not have the doll yet, but it is being ordered through the foundation. The grant received was for $1,000.
A request to move murder suspect Jeremy Wicks, 36, of Madisonville, from the Hopkins County Jail to Christian County was denied at a hearing last week.
According to an order signed by Circuit Judge Chris Oglesby, the court would not “have the authority to order a transfer of the defendant to Christian County Jail without a written agreement between the two jails.”
Wicks’ attorney claimed the inmate has been held on suicide watch since Aug. 5, 2020.
“During this time, he has not been allowed to wear his normal clothing … he is clothed only in what is colloquially referred to as a turtle suit,” according to the motion filed by the defense.
The motion also claimed that Wicks is denied any recreation and is isolated from all other inmates and says Wicks was diagnosed with acid reflux, and has allegedly been prescribed omeprazole, or Prilosec, for his condition.
According to the motion, Wicks’ medication was allegedly confiscated from him, and was given back to him before being taken away again.
Hopkins County Jailer Mike Lewis said that Wicks was no longer on suicide watch but was still isolated from other inmates “based on his actions and the statements he has made toward staff and other inmates.”
Lewis also said Wicks doesn’t have a prescription of any kind, saying that over the counter medications can be purchased through the commissary.
Oglesby wrote in his order that the court “is not aware of the defendant having any pending charges in Christian County … the defendant has made it clear through his conduct and actions at the Hopkins County Jail since his arrest that he poses a serious risk of danger to himself, other inmates and to jail staff.”
Oglesby also sided with the jail writing that staff at the Hopkins County Jail “have not treated the defendant with deliberate indifference for his rights, safety and health. To the contrary, it appears they have taken the appropriate and necessary action to ensure the safety of the defendant, other inmates and jail staff. Moreover, this court initially expressed concern over whether it would even have authority to transfer the defendant’s housing to Christian County and unilaterally impose that responsibility on another jail.”
Wicks was charged April 6, 2020 with two counts of murder in the deaths of Elvis and Joseph Gipson. Both men were found shot in the head inside a home at 778 Hodge Street, according to police reports.
A third man, Gunner Madison, survived the attack but was severely wounded after also being shot in the head, according to reports. Wicks is facing a first-degree assault charge in connection to Madison’s injuries.
The case is scheduled for a pretrial status conference at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21 via Zoom.