Schools districts return to virtual learning

Christy Howell-Hoots [email protected]

Local school superintendents are responding to a mandate by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to return to 100 percent virtual learning beginning Monday.

On Wednesday, Beshear announced public and private school districts will have to move to virtual learning. In the mandate, Beshear said middle and high schools can return to in-person learning in January, while elementary schools can return on Dec. 7, so long as the district is located in a county that is not in a red zone.

Mason County Schools Superintendent Rick Ross said he would prefer the decision to be made at the local level, rather than having a state-wide mandate. However, he understands Beshear is making a decision he feels is best for everyone.

“I prefer local control. Our protocols were working to mitigate spread within the school, eventually a few cases within our families and staff, caused quarantines that were too widespread to continue with in-person learning,” he said. “I was hopeful that we could successfully return to school on November 30. There are no good answers until the vaccine is available so I won’t second guess the governor. He’s doing what he thinks is best.”

According to Ross, the district is prepared for the return to virtual learning.

“Our teachers have been balancing between virtual, hybrid, and in-person. They have demonstrated the ability to quickly transition to any of these learning methods,” he said. “Fortunately, even without receiving our Chromebook order placed in early summer, we have been able to provide the technology for our students to work from home, including 260 Wi-Fi hotspots.”

However, he has expressed concern over students not being in the school building as he believes students suffer academically and emotionally. He also said he has received comments from students about being upset that they are having to return to virtual learning.

The students will have meals provided for them while virtual learning is taking place. Meals will be delivered each week every Thursday, except for Thanksgiving.

“Our cafeteria, transportation, and FRC staff have really stepped up to make sure our kids are fed,” he said.

Ross also said the district will do everything possible to make sure elementary students return to in-person learning in December.

Augusta Independent School Superintendent Lisa McCane expressed similar sentiments.

“The mandate is a double-edged sword that will undoubtedly have adverse effects on many families in multiple other ways,” she said. “I am deeply concerned for our students’ emotional, social, and academic well-being and the impact this will have on them both short- and long-term.”

According to McCane, the district is prepared for virtual learning and meals will be available for students through pick-up or delivery during the closure.

“(I have) mixed feelings about the mandate, but understand the severity of the spread of COVID-19,” Holbrook said. “I feel the governor made a tough decision in the best interest of the people of the commonwealth.”

Holbrook said the district is prepared for virtual learning, but would prefer to be in-person.

“Even though I think our virtual has improved immensely since the spring, I would prefer to have our students in the building. Our school system is set up to continue virtual learning as long as needed. We are looking at the option of bringing elementary in if not in the red zone in December.”

According to Holbrook, meals will be provided to students during the closure.

Bracken County Schools Superintendent Jeff Aulick released a statement on social media about the mandate.

“As of today, Bracken County High School and Middle School will be completely virtual through Jan. 4,” he said. “We may have the option for Taylor elementary to return to in-person learning starting on Dec. 7, as long as our county is not designated red according to KY-COVID guidelines. The Bracken County administration and staff continue to do a great job with both in-person and virtual students. We look forward to when we are able to be back in school providing individual services for your students. Please make sure you follow the CDC guidelines so that our numbers will decline and we are able to resume these services. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and your family and continue to appreciate your support and understanding.”

Fleming County Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman also released a statement on social media about the mandate.

“Right now, we know that the last day of in-person classes will be on Friday, November 20, 2020, until further notice. There are a lot of requirements that must be met before schools can reopen with in-person classes. As of now, elementary schools may tentatively reopen on Monday, Dec. 7 as long as Fleming County is not in red status; however, middle and high school will remain closed until at least Monday, Jan. 4. Fleming County Schools has done an excellent job with in-person classes while also operating a large enrollment virtually. Our students, teachers, staff, parents/guardians, and community did everything we possibly could to keep our schools open. Unfortunately, our efforts within the school district could not keep the spread low in the community. We will be releasing further details over the coming days as we have an opportunity to review the full extent of the executive order.”

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