School board discusses opening guidelines

Posted June 16, 2020 at 12:44 pm

What the situation may look like when most schools across Kentucky “reopen” later this summer is still far from being known, as things are fluid and changing weekly.

However, local school officials, including Clinton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Parson and the Clinton County Board of Education are cautiously optimistic that classroom work can resume, with many restrictions and, in some fashion, on schedule.

The board had previously approved the 2020-21 school year calendar which calls for the opening of schools in Clinton County to be on August 12, and that has not changed.

The superintendent and school board discussed several tentative options and guidelines that would have to be put in place for reopening classrooms this year among the COVID-19 pandemic, during its regular monthly work session last Thursday, June 11.

The reopening of school was reviewed at length at the end of the long one hour and 20 minute session with all board members present.

Dr. Parson gave the board members results of a survey taken by parents recently pertaining to the reopening of schools. He noted that some 1,500 or so surveys had been sent and over 700, or almost half, had been returned.

Of those returned, it appears that most parents, about 80 percent, want to see school in the classroom reopen in some fashion this school year. Only about 20 percent, or one in five, indicated they would not let their child attend school in a classroom setting.

The survey also revealed of those who filled it out, that almost a third of parents would allow their children to ride buses to school.

(Results of the survey can be found at the end of this article.)

The superintendent noted that parents, educators, and board members agreed that children could get a better education in a classroom setting as opposed to virtual, or non-traditional school work from home.

Apparently, students who wish not to attend in-school classes will still be allowed to use the NTI virtual education system and receive credit, according to the discussion by the board.

Parson, who noted several who took the survey not only answered the questions but also made comments, had heard “both ends of the spectrum” pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic and its affects on schools.

The board discussed several concerns and changes that may be seen in a different type of setting, including wearing masks, social distancing and many other issues.

It was noted class sizes, if school is allowed to open, would be limited to 15 to 18 per classroom with the six foot distancing guidelines, and hopefully due to the spacing, students and teachers would not have to wear masks all day, but only in some types of situations where they may be required.

The same social distancing guidelines would also be used on school buses for students who choose to ride a bus, while it was noted many would be brought to school and dropped off and picked up by parents or guardians.

Parson noted that all classrooms, restrooms, etc. would have plenty of hand sanitizer, there will be a lot of signage at each school and safety guidelines would be announced.

It was suggested at the session that school officials needed to begin talking and communicating about some of the worries parents might have and again reiterated that everything right now was flexible and subject to change.

It was discussed, however, that with July just around the corner, if the district did not act now in some way, “people are going to start getting worried.”

It is the school district’s goal to offer “face to face, five-day per week” in class education for those who want it.

It was also noted social distancing would be harder to control with students at the high school level, but elective courses could be offered online.

Also, students who opt to ride a bus would be asked to wear masks during their transport to school and back home, or transitional periods.

Temperature checks would also be conducted on all students and anyone showing signs of illness would be isolated until picked up by a parent or guardian and the health department would also trace their past whereabouts.

For school employees, Dr. Parson said it would be a difficult transitional period and asked that they receive some “perks” to help ease the stress of a completely different school setting, such as allowing them to wear t-shirts and jeans to work, etc.

The superintendent and board members again stressed that the reopening of schools in August with safety measures in place was the current plan, but subject to change at any time.

Again it was noted they were taking the situation almost day by day and hoping to receive more guidelines from state government officials, including the governor, on the best process to reopen schools for students in the classroom.

Dr. Parson also took to social media the day following the work session to explain the plans to reopen schools this year.

Also during the work session, the board discussed some issues that were to be on the agenda for its regular business meeting held this past Monday. (Details of that meeting can be found on page 1.)

Finance Director Mike Reeves gave his finance report and discussed funding from the federal CARES Act, which relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reeves noted the funding was for a two year period with much of the funds to be used for technology. This would include allowing the purchase of chromebooks of the same type for every student in the district.

This would benefit many families since most have only one computer in their home, if any at all, and many have two or more students in the home.

Other funds would be used for things such as textbooks and other instructional resources.

Dr. Parson also briefly discussed the partial roof replacement at Albany Elementary School, saying work should be completed sometime later in the summer.

They also discussed the need for an art teacher aide and changing the Athletic Director position to District Athletic Director to help streamline athletic responsibility at all schools to one overseer.

The board approved first reading of policy and procedure updates, with the second reading passing at Monday night’s regular business meeting.

Among a couple of items of interest, Homebound can now be taught electronically and virtual GED completion can be done for anyone up to 21 years of age who did not receive a regular high school diploma.

Dr. Parson also informed the board the sheriff had indicated his office no longer wished to participate in the SRO (School Resource Officer) program. He noted however, the district had a veteran, trained SRO, Kent McDaniel, who the school district would continue to fund.