The June Advocate featured three districts as they began planning for the next school year. Here are the outcomes.
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
Montgomery County Schools’ plan included students returning two days a week with half the students coming on Monday and Tuesday and half on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays, students would learn online. The board chose the plan to allow for a “soft-opening,” said Superintendent Matt Thompson.
“We know that none of the options are perfect. And none of the options are what we would consider if things are the way they used to be,” said Thompson, who had recommended five-day-a-week instruction to the board.
“I felt like with our mitigation strategies we were able to minimize the risk as much as possible,” he said. Montgomery County’s cases have remained relatively low with just 104 total cases as of July 30.
Board chairwoman Alice Anderson said during the July 21 meeting to vote on a plan that she understood that students want to return to school and that many parents want to send them.
“I really want to bring our kids back to school, I just don’t think I’m ready to bring them all back at once,” she said. “Let’s do the hybrid model until the end of September and get all the bugs worked out.”
The board voted four to one for the rotating schedule and planned to review the situation in September.
The soft opening was a chance to give teachers, students and administrators time to get used to the new safety procedures and allow for extra cleaning on Wednesdays, Thompson said. The board planned to meet Aug. 13 to consider the governor’s recommendations.
Boyle County Schools held town halls, surveyed parents and worked throughout the summer to create a plan that would allow for students to return to class five days a week or participate in an all-virtual academy.
But just four days after the deadline for parents to choose, things changed.
“This is a difficult decision and not one that we take lightly,” Superintendent Mike LaFavers said at a July 28 special board meeting. “But our recommendation at this time is to begin the year virtually for all students.”
While more than 70 percent of parents selected in-person, as the survey deadline neared most parents were selecting the virtual option, he told the board. As of July 30, the county had seen 125 total cases.
“If you can’t create safety, you can’t guarantee learning,” he said. “This is ultimately your all’s decision and we respect that, and we will make whatever you all decide tonight work.”
Board member Jessie Johnson noted that all virtual instruction would be a struggle for families with two working parents, including his.
“We are going to be in a hard spot, but I think we can navigate this together,” he said. “I know this is not ideal for anything.”
The board approved the plan three to one and planned to revisit returning to in-person classes sometime after school begins Aug. 26. The district said Aug. 10 that it will follow the governor’s recommendation and not start in-person classes before Sept. 28.
Kenton County Schools developed a plan that allowed parents to choose all-virtual instruction or in-person instruction five days a week – only if enough students chose the virtual option.
On July 31, the day after the parent survey was due, Kenton County had 1,317 total cases, the fourth highest in the state.
After the district determined that 70 percent of the families picked in-person instruction, officials realized that they could not meet the state’s social distancing guidelines, according to a letter to families from Superintendent Henry Webb.
The district decided that most of its 14,500 students would attend in-person on a rotating schedule of two and three days per week while learning from home on the other days. Students in preschool through third grade were scheduled to be in school all five days starting Aug. 24. The district said it was reviewing the governor’s recommendations.
“This is an unprecedented time with many challenges and all stakeholders are impacted by this situation,” Webb wrote in a letter to families. “It is imperative to be positive and work with each other to ensure we have the best start of the school year for our kids and our entire team Kenton.”