Schools start in Hancock County on Monday, August 23, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not students need to wear masks.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear answered this question earlier this month when he mandated masks in schools for 30 days, starting on August 10.
“Masks are required inside the schools,” new Hancock County Board of Education Superintendent Robert “Robby” Asberry said. “We will try to keep students at a three-foot distance.”
Students need to also wear masks while in transit to school on the buses. In addition to these measures, the district also re-implemented its sanitation protocols from last year to help stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, a person exists at each school able to administer a COVID test whenever needed.
The biggest change is the return to in-person instruction on day one of the school year. In returning to in-person instruction, the district hired additional aides for the first and second grade classes.
“We think our first and second grade students have been hit the hardest due to instructional loss due to last year’s COVID protocols not having enough instructional time,” Superintendent Asberry said. “We think having another adult in the classroom will have a huge impact.”
Superintendent Asberry said the district also implemented other procedures and protocols to create multiple safety nets to keep students from falling through the cracks and not receiving the instruction they need. At the elementary school level the district added gap coordinators.
“They help students one-on-one and over see the safety net procedures to make sure students do not fall through the cracks,” Asberry said. “They are kind of like a curriculum coordinator; they do whatever is needed to help those students.
“Every student is different and every child matters. We need to make sure we are filling those needs no matter where they are.”
The district also plans on retaining a Virtual Learning Academy this year, and a process exists for enrollment in the program. Students wanting to enroll in the academy need a valid reason if in middle or high school.
“Our elementary school students will have to be medical reasons,” Asberry said. “The virtual program is better for middle school and high school. If anyone is interested, they can let us know and we will tell them what the process is.”
This year 38 new employees joined the district; the new hires include teachers, instructional assistants and other staff. Of these new hires, 16 are new teachers. Asberry shared his vision concerning the upcoming year. He wants all teachers in the district to teach to each individual student, not to the group.
“My vision is for our staff, no matter what position they have in the system, are here to help kids,” Superintendent Asberry said. “I want them to love our students and give them whatever they need. Each student is different and we do not want them to fall though the cracks; that we give them the instruction and education they deserve and need.”
Superintendent Asberry said his goal for this year is for the district to make up for the lost instruction over the last 18 months. Asberry said he wants students to know the district cares for them and loves them.
“I feel like if we develop that relationship with them and we work hard making up that instructional loss and not letting students fall through the cracks; if we can do that we have had a successful year,” Asberry said.
By Ralph Dickerson