Sierra, Manny, Christol, and Sidney

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk asked if we could photograph him and his family in front of FCPS Main Office on East Main Street, rather than outside their home. “This building is iconic and it represents all our employees. It shows what we’re about: providing education to all kids in the county,” he explained.

Manny: “As we close out our last official week of the 2019-2020 school year, it’s easy to focus wistfully on the ways this ending is different. There will be no final bells, no field days, promotion festivities or graduation ceremonies in Rupp Arena.

But I’ve never been one to take the easy way out. Instead, I’m encouraged by the way this ending amplifies all the good things that the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed – the importance of connection, the power of education to change lives, and the unmatched dedication of Fayette County Public Schools employees.

When the ground shifted beneath our feet, Team FCPS remained constant, operating from our core values, keeping students first, ensuring victory in a reimagined classroom, collaborating for success, and partnering with families and community.

Since our schools ceased in-person instruction on March 13th, I have been moved time and again by small acts of great kindness, and courageous efforts borne of concern for our most vulnerable children and families.

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who assembled and distributed meals for students who might otherwise have gone hungry, those who kept School Health Clinics open for students and families with nowhere else to receive medical care, those who performed essential building maintenance to keep the district running, those who provided mental health services, and those who delivered weekend food and cleaning supplies to families in need.

Our incredible educators reinvented their instructional methods and found ways to engage students in learning while we were forced to be apart. With virtual lessons and paper and pencil activities, by text, conference call, email and online meetings, our teachers stayed connected with their students and continued to challenge them academically. We distributed tens of thousands of laptops and Chromebooks, provided free hotspots and expanded technology support for students and staff.

Familiar end of the year traditions have been replaced with new ways to honor students and celebrate the importance of our connected community. Virtual band banquets, personal choir serenades, online student gatherings, yard sign deliveries and drive by celebrations have instead taken place. This week Thursday and Friday, we will host the first-ever FCPS Senior Send Off at the Kentucky Horse Park to give our graduates and teachers one last time to be together. Next week, our high schools will host drive up diploma distributions and in mid-June we will broadcast virtual graduation videos.

This ending is bittersweet. Satisfying and uplifting in a different way. I am proud of the many ways our employees have taken care of one another, our students, our families and our community since we closed our doors on March 13. We have learned many lessons, and I believe we will emerge changed for the better. With a stronger resolve to protect the most vulnerable among us. With a greater appreciation for things we have taken for granted. And with a renewed commitment to making the most of the time we have together.”

Lexington in the Time of COVID-19 is an artwork about people practicing social distancing at a time of a deadly virus. And also offering kindness.

Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova capture photographs at the periphery of American culture, where drag queens, discarded couches, and abandoned motel signs exist.