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Schools to Reopen on October 12

Parents must choose distance learning or
in-person classes for their children.

By Eugenia Jones

The McCreary County Board of Education met earlier this week to approve a School Reopening Plan enabling students to tentatively return to in-person classes on Monday, October 12, 2020.
Noting the McCreary County School District and Health Department have worked hand-in-hand to develop a plan for reopening local schools, McCreary County School Superintendent Corey Keith feels confident about resuming in-person instruction.
“I feel like we have a solid plan in place,” Keith commented. “We have consulted with the Health Department all along the way.”
The District is offering two models of instruction for parents to choose from:
1. The option of a traditional learning approach allows students to attend school daily on Monday-Thursday while following health and safety guidelines. Friday will be a district-wide virtual learning day. With the traditional, in-person instructional approach, students will be expected to bring a fully-charged Chromebook to school each day. All students, K-12, were issued Chromebooks earlier this year.
2. Option 2 allows parents to choose a distance-learning academy involving an online model used at home with teacher support.
A large portion of the reopening plan for in-person learning focuses on frequent and thorough screening of students and staff for COVID-19 symptoms.
Temperature checks for students and staff are a major component of the plan. Parents will be expected to screen their children for possible symptoms of COVID-19 each morning-including checking temperatures. Students riding the bus will have their temperatures checked prior to boarding whenever possible. Bus drivers and monitors will have temperatures checked prior to beginning their routes. Parent-transported riders will have their temperatures checked while still at their vehicle, and student drivers will have their temperatures taken upon arrival at school. Passengers of student drivers should be limited to students within the household.
Face coverings are required at all times (including on buses) except when actively eating or drinking or when socially distanced outdoors. The school district will provide all staff and students with at least one cloth mask, and all masks should be made from multiple layers of fabric.
The District will also enforce social distancing and contact tracing. Classroom seating will be organized so students are at least six feet apart when possible. If not possible, seating will be organized to maximize space between students. Students will face the same direction, and seating charts will be developed, followed, and checked. Buses will load back to front and unload front to back. Floor markings and directional flow patterns will be utilized. Student lockers will not be used.
Additional aspects of the District’s reopening plan deal with signage, cleaning protocols, availability of hand sanitizer, and the treatment of students/staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
If it becomes necessary to consider changing the mode of instruction due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the community, a variety of factors will be considered. One tool that will be consulted is the “COVID-19 Model of Instruction Metrics for K-12 Education.” In this model, four colors-green, yellow, orange, and red-are used to indicate the severity of community spread of COVID-19. If the community reaches the red/critical stage of community spread, in-person classes and extracurricular activities will be suspended until a yellow level is reached.
The District will self-report COVID-19 case numbers and quarantine numbers for staff and students daily M-F. Parents must inform the school within 24 hours if their child is diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or has been directed to quarantine.
In additional business, the Board approved the Working Budget for 2020-2021. According to Finance Director Lauren King, despite there being additional expenditures due to COVID-19, this year’s budget is well-balanced and one the District can feel good about. The District is expected to end the year with nearly the same contingency (FY 20 was $4.5 million vs FY 21 projected at 4.2 million) despite picking up the cost of six buses purchased last year, but not received until this year. As a percentage of the general fund, the contingency is approximately 18%. The large contingency serves as a safeguard since the district has been informed that budget cuts may be coming from the state.
The next regular meeting of the McCreary County Board of Education will be Monday, October 26, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. at Whitley City Elementary School.

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