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Digital school and supplemental years: Board clarifies what life after COVID could be

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

The Carter County Board of Education spent Monday night looking at two fundamental questions the district will be facing as they move forward in a post COVID world; how to best serve students who thrived under the virtual learning environment, and how best serve those who did not. 

The first issue on the agenda was those who felt they didn’t do as well in a virtual learning environment. The recent Senate Bill 128, Superintendent Dr. Ronnie Dotson explained, sets out exactly what a school district can do for those students in the form of a supplemental school year. 

A supplemental school year is essentially a voluntary repeat of the school year that has just passed. For underclassmen, this means an opportunity to catch up on learning opportunities they might have missed without the in-person experience, and the chance to improve their grade point average. 

For seniors, things are a little different. Graduating seniors will still graduate with their class this year as long as they met all the requirements to graduate – which Dr. Dotson said all the districts seniors have done. They will be awarded the GPA they earned for the current school year, regardless of how well they do if they repeat the year, and their Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money will not be impacted by any improvements in performance in the repeated year. Essentially it’s a repeated year where the grades won’t matter. 

But, despite this, some graduating seniors might still benefit from the repeated year; if they truly felt their education suffered, or if they didn’t get the in-person practice time needed for a technical education in a trade like welding, electrical, or carpentry programs, for instance. In those cases, students might benefit from the extra class time they would have gotten in a typical year – especially if they intend to pass some sort of accreditation or certification. 

“Some have cited that they didn’t have the opportunity to meet certifications,” Dotson explained.

In Carter County, however, most students in these programs took advantage of opportunities that granted them that classroom and practice time, Dotson told the board. For instance, some of the district’s students who were also taking classes for college credit in the electrical program were getting the hands-on experience they needed to pass their certifications in that program. 

For seniors who took classes for dual credit, if they choose to continue taking college classes during their supplemental year, they will be expected to pay full tuition to that institution. They will not receive the reduced rate for high school students taking classes for dual credit. 

The board must have any requests to repeat the school year by May 1. They will then decide on whether to approve or reject all requests by June 1. While each case will be considered, all cases will be approved or rejected together as a group, not as individual requests. All repeated classes must be attended in person.

For student athletes, KHSAA requirements relating to age and number of class hours a student must participate in to qualify for eligibility still apply. 

For students who thrived under the self-directed atmosphere of the virtual classroom, the board voted to approve a new school – the Carter Virtual Academy. Students who choose to participate in these classes must have a working internet connection, and must participate in online activities and twice daily attendance checks. Any student who wants to attend the virtual academy rather than participate in in-person instruction will be allowed to do so, but they will not be considered students of East Carter High School or West Carter High School, but rather students of the Carter Virtual Academy. This means they will not be qualified to participate in sports with either of those high school teams. 

The board moved unanimously to approve the new virtual academy option. 

The board also heard from a student representative for one of the first times since the pandemic started. Randa McGuire, with the Carter County Energy Club and club sponsor Jenny Knipp spoke with the board about the activities of that club to increase awareness of energy consumption, and steps that can be taken to make homes more energy efficient. The club’s activities were an example of how both in-person students and virtual students could work together to raise awareness in their schools and in their communities. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com 

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