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Local schools see rise in economically disadvantage, homeless students
  • Updated

High homeless numbers and a large population of economically disadvantaged students were just two of the issues facing Webster County Schools that was revealed by the annual Kentucky Department of Education School Report Card released statewide this morning.

Although the report is normally used to compare performance results in individual schools and districts to results from schools across the state, due to COVID-19, the 2021 report card proves to be far less informative thanks to a waiver granted to the KDE by U.S. Department of Education that removes school accountability requirements.

According to the report card, Webster County Schools saw district-wide enrollment drop from 2,156 in the 2017-28 school year to 2,099 last year. No explanation for the drop in enrollment is offered by the report, but school officials reported during last school year that a number of families had chosen to home school children rather than utilize the remote and virtual options offered early in the school year.

The largest group of students during the school year was the ninth grade, which had 196 students enrolled last year. Eighth graders made up 195 of the total student body with tenth grade reporting 186 students. The smallest grade level in the district was last year’s junior class, the current seniors, which had only 137 members.

Of the entire 2,318 students in the district, 1,177 are female while 1,141 are male.

White students continue to make up the majority of the student body at 1,765, with Hispanic students being the second largest group at 394. Only 59 students in the district were classified as African American, an increase of eight students since the 2018-19 school year.

Approximately 63% of the student body, or 1,479 students, are considered economically disadvantaged, with 488 officially being listed as homeless.

That represents an additional 89 economical disadvantaged students and 81 additional homeless students since the last report card released for the 2018-19 school year.

“We have a great staff of three Family Resource providers that focus on the economically disadvantaged,” said superintendent Rhonda Callaway. “They don’t just work with students but also our families. Due to the number homeless students, we hired Diane Oakley as our Homeless Coordinator a couple of years ago. Assistant Superintendent, Greg Bowles oversees Family Resource and Homeless so this group has a strong collaborative approach to meet the needs of these student populations.”

Sebree Elementary is home to the largest population of financially disadvantaged and homeless students. According to the report card, 75.9% of the student body is listed as financially disadvantaged, and 157 of the 361 students enrolled there are listed as homeless.

Providence was second, with 70.6% of the population listed as disadvantaged and 46 students homeless.

Dixon Elementary, with an enrollment of 327 students, reported the best data in the district, with a disadvantaged population of 48% and 37 students listed as homeless.

In ACT testing, Webster County students average a composite score of 16.9, over a point lower than the statewide average of 18.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Officials see slight downward trend in new local COVID-19 cases
  • Updated

Although Webster County remains firmly within the “red” according to the state-wide COVID-19 scoring metric, officials are starting to see a downward trend in the number of new cases being reported.

The Green River District Health Department reported 45 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,303 since the pandemic began last March. During that time there have been 33 deaths associated with the virus.

But despite continuing high numbers, officials have reported a visible downward trend in the number of new cases in the county since most recently peaking two weeks ago with a 7-day average of 112 new cases.

The highest 7-day average since the pandemic began came on December 9 when that number reached 125.

Following a report of 35 news cases of the virus on September 21, the 7-day rolling average of new cases dropped to just 37 cases, the lowest number the county has seen since July 23. Although that average went back up to 78 cases following a report of 43 cases on Friday, the numbers still represent a downward trend that officials hope to see continue.

A reduction in new cases of COVID-19 is particularly of note to healthcare officials following an announcement by Governor Andy Beshear last week that Kentucky would soon be affected by a nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibody infusion treatments, one of the leading treatments for patients diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“We will have at least one monoclonal antibody treatment provider in each of our Area Development Districts, but there’s not going to be enough anywhere,” said Gov. Beshear. “If you’re putting off a vaccine to have an infusion, let me tell you, an infusion is much more invasive, and there are not going to be enough of those anywhere in the commonwealth. Get that vaccine.”

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Fall events planned for this week

Organizers in Clay and Providence are looking forward to sunny skies and relatively mild temperatures this week as both Clay Days and the Providence Uptown Fall Festival get underway as Webster County officially celebrates fall.

Clay Days starts first with the annual city-wide church service tonight at 7 p.m.

Rides and vendors will open to the public at 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

A nightly lineup of events will include:


Parade—6 p.m.

Miss Clay Days—7 p.m.

Jr. Miss Clay Days—7:30 p.m.


Balloon Guy—6-9 p.m.

Busted Flat (music)—7-9 p.m.


Jachin Lodge Breakfast—7-9:30 a.m.

Mud Volleyball— 9 a.m.

Kickball Tourney—11 a.m.

Pedal Tractor Pull—2 p.m.

Corn Hole Tourney—4p.m.

Car Show—4 p.m.

Baloon Guy—5-8 p.m.

Whiskey Alibi (music)—7 p.m.

Citizen of the Year—8:15 p.m.

50/50 Pot—8:15 p.m.

The one-day Providence Uptown Fall Festival will beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday with the annual car show. More than 55 awards are scheduled to be given out. Those include Best GM, Best Mopar, Best Ford and Best Non Big Three. There will also awards for best of show, mayors choice and a number of era specific awards.

The rest of the fall festival activities will get under way at 11 a.m. and run through 5 p.m., with live entertainment, vendors, food, bingo, games, face painting, bouncy houses and more.

Live entertainment will include music from “Whiskey Alibi” from noon until 2 p.m. and “The Sorrells Boys” from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m., magician Eric Tyree takes the stage at 4 p.m.

For the first time ever, the event will feature live wrestling action from Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) beginning at 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the Providence Community Center, just as the rest of the day’s activities are wrapping up.

For more information on the car show, owners should contact Doug Hammers at 270-339-0477.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Webster County schools to begin 'Test to Stay' program to prevent quarantines

Webster County Schools are preparing to roll out a new “Test to Stay” program that will drastically reduce or even eliminate unnecessary quarantine days for students and staff in the event that they are exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Individuals are considered exposed if they are unvaccinated and spend more than 15 minutes in close proximity to someone who tests positive for the coronavirus while not wearing a mask. Currently such an exposure will result in a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Approved during the recent special called session of the state legislature, the program allows individual schools to work in partnership with the health department and healthcare professionals to develop a plan that allows students and staff that are exposed an option to test out of quarantine. This will apply to both in-school and extracurricular activities.

Test to Stay will give students and staff an option to be tested on what would be their first day of quarantine. If they test negative, they will be allowed to return to school and other activities, but they must test each day for five days.

Failure to do so means they must complete the 10-day quarantine.

After five consecutive negative tests, they will be released from quarantine.

Students must have parental or guardian consent to be tested.

If students or staff choose not to take part in the Test to Stay program, they must following the existing 10-day quarantine rule.

According to superintendent Rhonda Callaway, Webster County Schools is working with Louisville-based Pearl Diagnostics. An official start date to the program has yet to be announced, but is expected to be soon.

The district is not financially responsible for the program, which will be funded by the state. The school is only required to provide a testing location, which will most likely be at the Clarky Clark Athletic Complex in Dixon.

The program will also offer surveillance testing to students or staff and any member of their household in the event they are exposed. This testing is not open to the general public.

In order to be eligible for Test to Stay, schools must have a mask order in effect. During Monday’s meeting, board members officially approved the district’s existing COVID-19 operations plan, which continues the current mask requirement.

Callaway put the plan in effect prior to the start of school, but board members Tim McCormick and James Nance requested that board members have a chance to vote on the plan.

Nance was not present for Monday’s meeting, but voiced his support for the plan via the phone.

“All of the experts I listen to say masks save lives,” he said. “I strongly support it.”

McCormick, however, took a stand against the plan.

“I can’t support it because I don’t support mandatory masking,” he said.

The plan passed with McCormick being the lone vote against the proposal.

In other business, Callaway informed board members that the Kentucky Department of Education had recently passed a vaccine initiative for local districts. Under this initiative, all school district employees are eligible for a one time $100 bonus for getting fully vaccinated.

Districts must fund the bonus themselves on the front end, but it will be fully reimbursed by the KDE.

To be eligible for the bonus, employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 1, 2021. The district must then submit a request for reimbursement to the state no later than January 31, meaning employees can expect payment in either December of January.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069