Return to School
By Kaitlyn Wilson
Thursday, July 16, 2020 the McCreary County School Board met to make a decision
regarding how school
would look in the upcoming school year during these
The Board came to the decision that the first day of school will tentatively be on August 27 after a lengthy discussion. The school board has also moved teacher work days to the weeks before school begins in order to allow teachers ample time to prepare. It should be noted that the current plan could be modified based on changing conditions/updates from the state/federal government. Parents have been provided with two options for the year and may choose to send their children to school for traditional learning or keep them at home for a distance learning academy.
The traditional option will have children attending classes Monday – Thursday with distance learning on Friday. All students and staff will be required to follow the Healthy at School guidance set forth by the Department of Education. Through this option, students will be required to wear a face mask on the school bus, when moving (such as throughout the building), and in any situation where they are unable to maintain 6 ft of social distancing. In the classroom, students will be able to remove their masks if social distancing can be practiced. However, if they are closer than 6 feet to each other, students will have to wear their masks during class. This does not apply to preschool, kindergarten, and students who are medically exempt with a doctor-documented medical condition, IEP, or 504 plan that states that the student is unable to wear a mask. For parents who do not want their child to wear a mask, the distance option may be a better choice because by choosing the traditional learning, parents are committing to the Healthy at School guidance that involves usage of masks in school. According to the reopening plan, staff and students will be provided with 2 cloth masks by the school district.
Life inside the schools will probably look a little different for parents picking their route. Aside from using masks and practicing social distancing, many changes will be made to ensure the safety of students and staff. One change is that cafeterias will no longer allow “self-service” and disposable materials will be used, along with seating expectations. In buses, seating charts will be developed and buses will load from back to front, and then unload from front to back. Schedules will be developed to minimize physical proximity, and when possible students will remain in classrooms in assigned groups/pods with teachers rotating. Students also will not be allowed to use their lockers.
The distance learning option will utilize an online model with teacher support. It will combine teacher-generated videos, video resources, online platforms, and communication with McCreary County teachers. This distance learning is not the same as NTI, where it will be used to mirror in-person classes instead of filling the gaps during limited closures like NTI. For the distance learning courses, students will be required to access and watch videos, complete and submit assignments, and communicate with their teachers. Thanks to money allocated to our school board from the C.A.R.E.S. act, the school board has been able to buy enough Chromebooks so that all students K-12 will be provided with one. There will also be some sort of food service available for all virtual students.
Parents may also have the option to switch their children from in-person classes to distance learning at any time during the school year. However, for planning purposes, students may only switch from distance learning to in-seat classes at the end of a 9-week grading period.
Parents are asked to choose the option of their choice for each child in their household online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfE2XbSISPSjHmeGmRAxgb4qLtNm2d9s8ne3jhzePdzTvfzsw/viewform or at the McCreary County Board of Education’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/mccrearyschools/ as soon as possible. The schools are preparing to begin calling individual households regarding their choice within the upcoming week.
Q & A with Supt. Keith
By Kaitlyn Wilson
Monday, July 20, 2020, The Voice sat down with Superintendent Corey Keith to ask a few questions pertaining to the reopening of school for the upcoming year.
Q: How will the home option work for students without internet access?
Corey Keith: “We’re looking at a variety of things for that and there may be even more than I’m sharing with you but we’re beefing up our hotspots at each of our buildings and so we’re going to have powerful hot spots where people can access them there. We’re actually looking at trying to provide hotspots throughout the community wherever we’re able to partner with some community partners. So, we’re still fleshing out some of the details on that, but we’re going to try really hard to partner with some folks to provide some options out in the community.”
Q: How will attendance be counted? Will the state decrease funds?
Keith: “We’re still working through that. I know there will be some requirements for participation time and so on like that, but that’s to be determined right now. The state is trying to be flexible with us, realizing these are kind of extraordinary times and so I’d say right now I’m not 100% certain of how that would work.”
Q: Will there be a way to ensure that both sides are on the same level academically and receiving the same education?
Keith: “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that our in person experience and our at-home experience are both top notch. I mean, we will make every effort to do that and in our planning we’re trying to make sure that they can mirror one another as closely as possible.”
Q: What about accountability for the Chromebooks? Will students or parents be held accountable?
Keith: “Well, we will be asking parents to sign an agreement basically acknowledging that they are responsible for the device.”
Q: Where did the money for the Chromebooks come from?
Keith: “McCreary has been a really good steward of their technology funds over the years, so we have a pretty good supply of Chromebooks already, but then in addition to that we purchased over 600 Chromebooks just recently. We were able to use some of the C.A.R.E.S. Act money, specifically one side of that is called G.E.E.R.S. and we were able to use that money to purchase the additional Chromebooks. We already were pretty blessed with our supply.”
Q: Pulaski County is offering a similar option to what we’re doing, but using 5 days a week. Why only 4?
Keith: “There are a number of advantages to four, in our opinion and again this is not comparing ours to anyone else’s, but some of the things we hope to do on those Fridays is one, it’ll give us the opportunity to do deep cleaning. We’re going to be having cleaning protocols and it’ll be sanitized day to day, but then that gives us Friday to do that deep cleaning, those really deep cleaning protocols that we can. Another advantage is that it’s going to provide additional time for us to, we’ll be making contact with our virtual kids throughout but then Fridays will be a good time to even take it to the next level and provide some time that we can really provide those contacts to students that choose the distance learning. Also, one of the side benefits too is that with the whole district going to a distance learning option on Fridays should we ever get to the point where, we’ve been warned that it’s quite possible that we could have short or intermittent or even extended closures based on what happens and guidance we get from KDE and Public Health. If our students are already in that mode of having some online time then that’s going to enable us to not miss a beat if and when we’re in a position that we have to go complete virtual or complete distance learning.”
Q: In making this decision, are you taking into account that we have had few cases in the county?
Keith: “We’re following guidance from KDE, we’re following guidance from Public Health. But as we work through it, we believe that we’re in a position to be able to put out the safety measures in place that we’re being asked to, to offer an in person while at the same time realizing that there could be medically fragile students, parents who simply don’t feel comfortable sending their students to school during a pandemic and so we’re trying to be very sensitive and do our very best to meet the needs of all of our students.”
Q: If masks are used, how will they be enforced?
Keith: “So we’re fleshing through that but basically, mask usage is going to be on the buses, students will be asked to wear a mask on the buses, students will be asked to wear a mask when in motion as far as traveling into the building, traveling into classrooms, and so on, so basically if you’re on the move you’ve got to mask up. Additionally, in classrooms where the 6 feet social distancing is not possible, those will be occurrences where students have to mask, but any time we’re in a static situation where we’re able to achieve the 6 feet guidelines for social distancing, masks will be able to be taken down.”
Q: What if you have a student who refuses to wear a mask?
Keith: “At that point, every case is individual but if a student is going to do our traditional path, to be able to do that path they’re going to have to be able to comply with the Healthy at School guidelines, which include wearing a mask when you’re on the move or closer than 6 feet to someone else.”
Q: How will the temperature checks work?
Keith: ‘So we’re going to try to make sure we’re efficient with that as well, and it’s in our FAQ actually. So what we intend to do is temperatures will be taken for bus rides by a bus monitor and so a bus monitor will be charged with taking their temperature for them to be able to get on the bus. For car riders, we intend to have people out there and as students exit their car we’ll be able to take their temperature right at that point. For student drivers, the high school is going to have a separate protocol as far as checking in as they come through a specific entrance and so on, and so we want to make sure that student’s first point of contact with us is the point at which we take a temperature.”
Q: How will recess be handled?
Keith: “The schools are still working through that, but we will try to make sure that we do everything we can while following those Healthy at School guidelines.”
Q: How will lunches work?
Keith: “They’ll be working through it as we’re collecting the numbers. So much of how it looks is going to be depending on our numbers, and the numbers as far as being able to make sure that we maintain the social distancing that’s being asked.”
Q: What will sports look like?
Keith: “We are following the lead of KHSAA, and so we’re getting updates from them and based on their guidance and KDE and Public Health, we’re going to make sure that we comply with those expectations.”
Q: What happens if a teacher/student tests positive?
Keith: “So based on guidance, we look at the results of all the other students. It’s the Health Department’s responsibility to notify us when one of our students or one of our staff members have a positive test. So really, on the Health Department side of things it’s their job but of course we’ll partner with them. At the point, if there’s a situation we will work fully with how that goes and whatever the quarantine guidelines are, we will make sure we are consistent with whatever is expected.”
“Safety is paramount and the School Board is doing their best to provide a safe environment for the students while remaining sensitive to those who don’t feel comfortable in the traditional school setting.”