Gospel Christian Academy is first Kentucky school to halt in-person instruction

Posted August 26, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Gospel Academy.psd

Gospel Christian Academy opened its doors to in-person instruction earlier this month, despite the recommendation of Governor Andy Beshear, and now, GCA has been limited to virtual only due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases, according to the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.

“Nobody has told us what to do, but we felt like we needed to get some distance between the students,” Principal Marcus Williams said.

GCA is the first school in the state of Kentucky to have to switch to virtual instruction after first holding in-person instruction.

In the public information brief posted for Tuesday, August 18, by the LCDHD said “One of the private schools in our district that had already opened to in-person instruction a few days ago, has already had to shift to virtual instruction due to a COVID-19 cluster. That particular school hopes to be able to return to in-person instruction in a couple of weeks.”

GCA first opened its doors in Clinton County in August of 2017.

Williams issued a collective statement from the GCA’s advisory board on Monday stating “We currently have two students that have tested positive for COVID-19. Upon learning of the first positive test, as a precautionary measure, our school advisory board made the decision to utilize our online streaming service for two weeks. The health of our students is our top priority. These are unprecedented times and there is no established formula to manage the times we live in. However, we do know and find comfort in the fact that we are in God’s hands and we trust Him for the wisdom to be applied in these uncertain times.

“It is our goal to provide a safe, effective, Christ-centered education. We will resume in-person learning at the end of the two week cancellation. We will move forward prayerfully and deal with these situations as they arise.”

GCA started school on Tuesday, August 4, and with having two cases, the LCDHD has described it as a cluster.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued an Attorney General Opinion stating that state and local officials cannot order the closure of religious schools that comply with social distancing and health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The law prohibits the state from mandating the closure of religiously affiliated schools that are complying with recommended health guidelines,” said Attorney General Cameron in a press release issued on Wednesday, August 19. “Our courts have consistently held, throughout this pandemic, that religious entities are protected by our Constitution. Religiously affiliated schools are an important extension of faith for many Kentucky families, and the state cannot prevent them from operating so long as necessary health precautions are observed.”

The opinion states that the Governor, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and other officials are prohibited from closing religiously affiliated schools in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and state law.

A forced closure of religious schools would also violate Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration (RFRA) act, which provides that government cannot “substantially burden” a religious belief without demonstrating “a compelling governmental interest” and using “the least restrictive means to further that interest.”

Governor Beshear said Wednesday at his news conference that nobody was trying to shut down a school that was complying.

“With only a couple of individual schools now reopened, we know that one has already had to go to virtual based on a COVID positive kiddo that we hope gets better,” Beshear said during his news conference.

Williams, pastor at Gospel Baptist Church, is principal at the school and has been since it opened.

His wife, Tracey, is also a teacher at the facility.

Williams is originally from Jamestown, Tennessee, while Tracey, who will be a full-time teacher, is from nearby Byrdstown.