In a constantly evolving climate, change is inevitable. And no situation is more fluid than the one school systems across the nation have found themselves in due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hopkins County School District is a prime example. Earlier this week, Supt. Dr. Deanna Ashby discussed what the start of school might look like for students, parents and faculty.
A few days later, the school chief has announced revisions to that announcement following discussions and guidance from state officials.
During next week’s registration, which has been moved from Monday to Wednesday, stakeholders will have two options to chose from, including a new one.
The first is remote learning. This is for students who don’t want to wear a mask during the day or feel more comfortable not being in a school building during the pandemic. This model will have a higher level of accountability and expectations for teachers and students than they had during last school year’s Nontraditional Instruction Days.
The second option is now a hybrid model, which the district will recommend to the Board of Education at its next meeting.
Ashby said the hybrid model is rotational and students are sorted into two groups spending alternate times in the school building. At each school in the district, Group A would be sorted by last names beginning with “A” through “K” and group B, with last names starting with “L” through “Z.”
Group A would attend school Mondays and Tuesdays and do a blended learning method on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at home, Ashby said. Group B would do blended learning Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and be in class Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday’s at each school, they will have a day for deep cleaning.
“The benefits of this is that it reduces the number of students that we have on the buses and in the buildings, which will lower the exposure that students have to one another,” Ashby said. “It will give an opportunity for greater social distancing, and hopefully, we’ll reduce the amount of time students have to wear a mask while they’re sitting in class.”
With the rise in Kentucky’s COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said during his Friday briefing, if numbers don’t decline over the weekend, he would recommend to superintendents to push their start dates back.
“If we’re still at 700 (average of new daily cases), or if we’ve gone even worse, starting right after that would be a real challenge,” he said. “I want to get back to in-school, in-class schooling, and for me, the likely recommendation would just be about, when the earliest we would recommend in-person classes.”
Ashby said the hybrid model is being used as a springboard, a reentry program, to get back to school five days a week.
Since the hybrid option was given to districts as an option in mid-May, through KDE’s document “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools Initial Guidance for Schools and Districts,” Ashby has not been a proponent for it, as it adds a need for child care during the blended learning days.
“I was not for this model in the beginning because of the childcare factor, but now we find ourselves in such a position that we have to modify our plans because of the high number of cases,” she said.
To overcome this barrier, Ashby said the district is launching “Operation: Caring for Kids.”
“We are in the process of reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce, to different corporations in town and to churches and civic groups, and see what they can do to help us find other options for child care,” she said. “It’s very important to Hopkins County Schools that we get our kids in school, but we also allow and support parents to be able to get back to work.
“To be part of the solution, we are asking the community to come alongside us and help us solve this problem because it’s a county problem, not just a school problem. When we talk about ‘One Team,’ it’s truly one team working as our entire community for the mission of trying to get our kids back in school through additional childcare opportunities.”
Students who choose to register for remote learning can email their principal and request to take part in extracurricular activities at the school, such as participating in sports or a club. Principals will make decisions after consultation with the central office on a case by case basis, said Ashby.
Parents and guardians may start the registration, enrollment, process Wednesday. According to the district’s Facebook page, all students must go through this process. Registration can be completed through Infinite Campus Parent Portal accounts.