By Lee Bratcher/OC Monitor
**UPDATE** HARTFORD, Ky. (8/10/20-4:35 p.m.) — During Governor Andy Beshear’s daily COVID-19 update today, after consulting with Kentucky teachers and administrators, recommended schools in Kentucky wait until Sept. 28 to begin in-person classes. Ohio County Schools were to begin classes Aug. 26 using a hybrid model of remote and in-person class instruction.
At this time, Ohio County Schools Superintendent hasn’t announced whether Ohio County schools will follow the governor’s recommendation or not. However, up to this point, Ohio County schools have followed the governor’s recommendations.
More to come at a later date.
HARTFORD, Ky. — The Ohio County School Board approved a plan to re-open schools in Ohio County last week. The school year will begin with a hybrid model of remote and in-person instruction, but the plan allows for the possibility of a return to in-person instruction five days a week.
Last month, Ohio County Schools Superintendent Seth Southard presented the school board with a tentative plan of how the school year would start, but held back on releasing the full details. At the time, Southard didn’t feel it was prudent to announce a plan only to have to scrap it after further guidance from health officials and Governor Andy Beshear’s Office.
However, with the first day of school for students just over two weeks away, the school board held a special-called meeting Thursday, Aug. 6, in which Southard went into detail on the re-opening plan for the new school year. A re-opening plan in which the school board approved unanimously.
In the tentative plan approved by the school board last month, Southard was pushing for in-person instruction five days a week. However, events leading up to last week’s special-called meeting had changed his mind.
“I don’t believe that’s where we’re at now,” said Southard about all students coming to school five days a week. “We’ve continued to see high numbers (of confirmed COVID-19 cases) and I think it’s a mistake if we try to go in-person, everybody, five days a week. As much as I would like that instructionally, I just don’t see the logistics of being able to keep everybody in the building, at full capacity. We’d certainly have to wear masks from the time we get on the bus until the time we get off the bus.”
For the last several weeks, Southard has polled his staff, parents and principals, trying to find the best solution to re-opening. Each of those polled had different opinions, but the plan he presented at last Thursday’s special-called meeting was the one that polled the best.
“There are numerous options that we could select and not one option out there is perfect. If it was, this would be easy and I wouldn’t have been so stressed this summer,” Southard told the board. “There is no golden plan, there is no silver bullet. Every option has flaws. and unfortunately, we’re going to have to choose what we feel is the best flawed option for Ohio County Schools and move forward.”
The Ohio County Schools 2020-2021 re-opening plan will be a hybrid model made up of three main instructional options, in-person instruction, virtual instruction and NTI or non-traditional instruction. Virtual instruction will be provided online and NTI will be provided offline similar to the packets given to students last school year. Applications to apply for the virtual option will need to be filled out by Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020.
Ohio County Schools will begin the year with a hybrid A/B schedule, Group A will attend Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday and Group B will attend Tuesday, Thursday and every other Friday.
On blue weeks group A will attend on Friday and on white weeks group B will attend on Friday.
On days students aren’t receiving in-person instruction at school, they will be doing their work at home either virtually or using NTI.
Once the Board of Education knows which students are choosing virtual and NTI instruction, the groups will be selected. Students and parents will be notified of their group assignment after group selection.
If a student needs to change groups, the Board of Education will try its best to make the change.
The Board of Education believes the hybrid A/B schedule provides a better routine for students and will create a more familiar learning environment. When parents were polled about what kind of instruction they wanted for their child, around 20 percent chose virtual instruction. That leaves around 80 percent of students who will come to school for in-person instruction. With the hybrid A/B schedule, the 80 percent will be split into 40 percent of students attending Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday, and the other 40 percent attending Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday.
Fewer students in the schools at one time will help with social distancing on the bus and in classrooms, would likely allow students to be able to remove masks during classroom instruction and fewer students would give students a better chance of receiving individualized instruction.
When it comes to cleaning, schools will be cleaned both during and after the school day. The re-opening plan was approved by the Green River District Health Department.
Meals will be available to all students, no matter the instruction option. Students not attending school in-person will be able to pick up meals at designated times at schools. Lunch pickup times will be communicated with parents at a later date.
While the school year will begin with the hybrid A/B schedule, depending upon guidance from the CDC and local health department, there remains a possibility for in-person instruction for all students five days a week. Also depending on guidance from health officials, there’s a possibility all in-person instruction will be stopped and school will be conducted solely through remote options, either NTI or virtual instruction.
Additionally, WiFi hotspots will be set up in school parking lots for students who need access to the internet but do not have internet service at home.
The Board of Education has developed a stoplight analogy for student instruction this school year when it comes to guidance from the CDC and health officials. A Green light means all students will come to school five days a week for in-person instruction. A Yellow light means schools will be using the Hybrid A/B schedule, which is where conditions are now. A Red Light means all students will receive remote instruction with no in-person instruction at all. Students and parents will be contacted when there’s any changes to the stoplight.
After Southard presented his recommended plan for re-opening schools, the school board unanimously approved it.
During the meeting, Southard mentioned several times that plans could change from week to week. In fact, Gov. Beshear’s Office said the governor would speak more about what he’d like to see for the upcoming school year later this week.
“There’s always been moments and times when we deal with difficult situations, and you deal with those and move forward, they’re short-lived,” Southard told the school board. “This is certainly something that has not been short-lived and unfortunately, it won’t be short-lived. We’re going to be dealing with this for many many months. And all of these options we shared tonight, at some point and time this school year, we will be in every one of these options. It’s probably inevitable.”
To read the complete 2020-2021 re-opening plan, click here.