Hancock County students in all grades could be going back to school, in-person and all at the same time, in the second week of March, based on a recommendation the school board will consider at Thursday night’s meeting.
Superintendent Kyle Estes had formulated a plan for bringing students back to class just days before a new executive order from governor Andy Beshear Tuesday called for all public schools to consider returning to in-person classes beginning on March 1, or seven days after staff receive their second vaccination.
“I’m hopeful that the board will entertain approving an expanded in-person plan on Thursday night…” said Estes.
Currently students are attending on a split A/B schedule, where students were separated into two groups, with one set attending in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the other group attending on Wednesdays and Thursdays. All Fridays and other days where they’re not in-person are done virtually.
Estes’ plan to expand in-person learning takes a big step toward returning to how things used to be.
“What I’m going to recommend is we combine the A and B groups and go four days a week, with Friday still being virtual…” Estes said.
Friday would remain virtual to allow teachers to manage the remaining all-virtual students, plus it would allow them to work with students who had been put on quarantine in order to keep everyone caught up.
On Tuesday of this week, Beshear issued Executive Order 2021-120, which said that with the vaccine becoming more widely available, schools should offer more in-person learning than they are now.
“Given the large number of K-12 school staff who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, new public health measures specific to schools are appropriate,” the order reads.
“All school districts are encouraged to offer or expand some form of in-person instructional opportunities beginning March 1, 2021, or, if district personnel have not yet finished their vaccine series as of March 1, seven (7) days after district personnel have received their second vaccination,” it says.
“…Staff in Hancock County receives their second vaccination on Friday the 26th,” Estes said.
Seven days after that is another Friday, so Estes is recommending starting back to school on the next Monday, March 8.
There will still be rules and restrictions. The executive order says that all students, staff and visitors must wear masks in all areas of the school buildings, and even on buses, and maintain social distance.
“Depending on the number of students and parents that want to return they guidance suggests to social distance 6 feet where possible,” Estes said. “There’ll be several areas where that won’t be possible but we’re going to spread them out as far as we can to adhere to that guidance.”
The hope that schools might be inching toward returning to traditional learning also offers the potential for the return of other things, like proms and in-person graduations.
“We’re looking at the options to be able to offer those as well,” he said. “Nobody wants to take anything away from students, but we want to be safe at the same time.”
Estes’ recommendation will be taken up by the board at its Thursday night meeting, which will be held via Google Meet at 5:30 p.m. A link to join the meeting will be posted on the district’s website.
By Dave Taylor