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Local school superintendents update Rotary on COVID-19 status

By DAVE FAIRCHILD

 

Boyle County School District Superintendent Mike Lafavers began the presentation of information on how COVID-19 is affecting local school districts. He characterized the current situation in public school education systems as dominated by finding ways to manage safety concerns related to COVID-19 while ensuring that the quality of the educational processes are the best possible.  Adding to the difficulties is providing the necessary funds to cover the unplanned expenses.  Lafavers said Boyle County was fortunate that it had adequate funds in its rainy day accounts to cover the $700,000 losses currently forecast for the 2020-2021 school year.

The staff began work on Sept. 12, and classes started virtually on Sept. 26. Initially, all students were schooled virtually from home.  The school was able to secure enough devices for every child to take equipment home. The district paid for the internet time.  Unfortunately, about 10% of the families have no internet connection, which Lavavers characterized as a problem that must be solved.

“It is like not having running water,” he said.

Our teachers did a great job with all virtual teaching in September. Beginning in October, Boyle County changed direction.

“Sixty-seven percent of our children want in-person education, and that is our situation today.  We still have 33% learning virtually. So where do we go from here?

Kentucky has created a seven-day incidence report that shows every county in Kentucky’s average daily new COVID-19 diagnoses. Any school district with over 25 new cases per 100,000 population must be closed. So far, we have ranged from 17.1% to 24%.  Boyle County school district tracks the number of quarantined students and staff from both school-related and non-school related exposures.

At present, they have 11 students and two staff quarantined from school-related exposures.  Non-school related exposures total 17 students and six teachers. Lafavers begins each day checking the county’s health report matrix.  Over the last three weeks, the score hasn’t been lower than 17.  Asked about the plans for the colder months ahead, Lafavers indicated that the plan is to continue to meet in person as much as possible, and contending with the transportation and crowding problems is a continuing concern.

Sheri Satterly, assistant superintendent of the Danville Independent School District, followed Lafavers. She began by saying that the district found itself needing to change multiple district plans, including pushing back the starting date and starting all classes virtually. The start date was set at Aug. 27 for students, and teachers were given 10 extra days (starting on Aug. 10) to prepare to develop the virtual processes. A re-evaluation was scheduled after six weeks, on October 5-9.

The district began the 2020-21 year with a survey of staff, parents, and families that was completed on June 15. Based on the survey and guidance from the Boyle County Health Department, the governor’s office, and the Kentucky Department of Education, a plan was developed that included five different models for the 2020-21 year. It recognized that models might need to change rapidly and multiple times during the school year. The first day of school for students was set for Aug. 25, 2020. Options for the 2020-21 year include the following learning models:

 

Enhanced Traditional Model – This plan includes face-to-face instruction at school (five days a week) with enhanced safety precautions in place such as face masks, temperature checks, increased hand sanitizer use, increased frequency of cleaning high touch areas, no assemblies or field trips, and limited visitors.

 

Teacher-led Distance Learning Model (grades K-12) – Students participate virtually (no paper option) in the learning of new grade/content material, interactive lessons, graded assignments, and assessments. This plan includes a combination of DIS teacher-made lessons and some online courses for older students. Distance learners will complete the same or similar work as their in-person peers and will communicate regularly with classroom teachers.

 

Independent Virtual Learning Model (grades 6-12 only) – Self-motivated students participate through a virtual platform (no remote paper option) in the learning of new grade/content material. Students will be self-paced and will have limited interaction with teachers and staff in the schools. Students will have access through office hours and email to a teacher/staff member for support.

 

Hybrid (A/B) Model – This plan would be a combination of distance and face-to-face instruction with increased safety and disinfecting measures. Students would attend two days of face-to-face instruction in the school buildings and three days of distance learning. Monday of each week would be reserved for teacher planning, enrichment, intervention, project-based distance learning for students, and some specialized face-to-face student services.

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