By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter County School Board met in special session on Friday with one item on the agenda, the start date for classes in Carter County. The board voted unanimously to change the start date for students, pushing it back another 16 days from Monday, August 10 to Wednesday, August 26. Teachers will return to work on August 11 which – with their one day of mandated professional development – gives teachers nine work days to prepare non-traditional instruction (NTI) plans for students that will be joining class online and picking up instruction packets.
Board member Bryan Greenhill noted that “CDC guidelines change daily” and told those joining the meeting in person and online that the board had been informed on Thursday that five children in the county have recently tested positive for COVID-19. Greenhill said he would “urge (parents and teachers) to be mindful” and resist the tempation to take vacations or trips during the extra off time, especially considering that some tourist destinations have now become “hot spots” for covid transmission.
Lisa Easterling noted the board had previously stated the need to remain flexible, and that this is what the board was doing by taking advantage of the variable instructional calendar options available under KRS 158.070.
“When you look at the numbers… we need to be flexible in this,” Easterling said.
Even this current situation might change, she continued. She noted the governor said he would be, “making a strong rccomendation,” next week.
“We realize, moving forward, this may also change,” she said.
Dotson said the dirtrict will now attend school 167 days. This will allow them to meet the requirement of 1,062 hours, which “is considered ‘proportionally equivalent’ to 170 days for the purpose of calculating the work contracts of teachers.”
Dotson said districts who chose to go to school for seven hours a day could have as few as 152 instructional days, but he did not wish to cut instructional days any more than was necessary. This, he said, is why he had encouraged the board to hold with an earlier start date until new information from the health department was made available to the district.
“I didn’t feel it was a prudent thing to do (unless necessary),” Dotson said, stating that regardless of the virus, the board and the district had an obligation to educate children. He said he wouldn’t be surprised no matter what came down from the state, but he was, “100 percent committed to making sure kids get the best education.”
Dotson said he was already working to get Chrome books to families who were choosing NTI but needed a device to access the internet, so they could join class, “in real time.”
In addition to pushing back the start date again, Dotson reminded those joinging the meeting online that the district would be providing two cloth masks and a gaiter mask – the style that goes around the neck and can be pulled up over the mouth and nose – for every student. The gaiter mask, he said, has been found by some people to be more comfortable to wear than the cloth masks that hook around the ear.
In kindergarten and pre-K classes, he said, the district is installing sneeze guards between each desk, so students can still work across from each other with less risk of spreading a virus.
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