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Christy insists on distance learning until Oct. 30

Since the decision in early August for instruction to be by distance learning for the first nine weeks of the fall semester, the Clark County school board has spent many hours debating the possibility of getting all students back into classrooms sooner.

On Monday night, it was on the board’s agenda again, but Superintendent Paul Christy reminded the board that by law it is his responsibility to make that call, and he’s not sending all the kids back early while coronavirus infections are rising.

“I’ve made this decision, and I stand strong and firm on this right now,” Christy said.

The superintendent said he respected and valued board members’ input, but “it comes down to it’s my decision,” and he has to be concerned about what’s best for the children and employees.

Christy has been getting input not only from the board but from a task force he appointed that is made up of parents, educators, public health officials, medical professionals and others.

In its recommendation, one of the conditions the group had for allowing students to return to in-person learning was that there be a three-week average decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

“But we’re not in decline. We’re still increasing,” he said. “So at this point, it’s my opinion that now is not the right time to bring all of our students back into the schools,” Christy said.

The superintendent pointed out that he is bringing some students back into schools for short periods of time. Those include special education students, those who need additional help with advanced placement classes and others whose parents have asked for more personal instruction. Those numbers have more than doubled since classes began online in September, and about half of those students are being bused. They are also being fed breakfast. Not only does that help those students who need additional help, but it “allows us to work on our protocol … to see how we can safely do this” when more students return, he said.

The superintendent has published a letter on the home page of the school district’s website informing parents of what to expect Oct. 5-30.

Currently, students who request it may receive up to four hours of in-person instruction on assigned days. In-person classes are scheduled to resume Oct. 30 for students whose parents opt for it. However, there will be an A-B hybrid schedule. The A group would go to classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and do distance learning on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The B group would have in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays and do remote learning on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The schools would be closed to all students on Wednesdays to allow for deep cleaning.

Students and their parents also have the option of continuing virtual learning from home, and so far, about 22 percent have said they will do so. 

The reason for the hybrid schedule is that the Centers for Disease Control and the state and county health departments are recommending that students be seated six feet apart from one another in the classrooms, and there isn’t enough room to have them all in classes at once with that requirement in place. Students and teachers must also wear masks at all times except when eating meals, and everyone who enters schools must first have their temperatures taken.

The state Department of Health has a color-coded daily incidence map that shows how many cases of COVID-19 counties have per 100,000 population. Fewer than 1 is coded in green, 1-10 is yellow, 10-25 is orange, which indicates an accelerated spread, and more than 25 is in the red zone, or critical. Clark County on Tuesday was in the yellow category, while every county touching it is in orange and some have been in red.

Christy said the reason Clark County is in the yellow category is that it has been doing things right. If the community, including the school system gets lax about the virus, it won’t be in the yellow anymore, he suggested.

“This is a place we’ve never been in before, and it’s difficult for everybody,” Christy said.

If the community gets in “a better place,” he said, it may be able to bring students back sooner.

Board Member William Taulbee, who has said often that he is “not a fan” of the hybrid in-person and virtual model, admitted Monday that it may be the only viable option.

“I’m fully supportive of what you’ve presented,” he said. “I feel like we do need to get back, and this is the best solution.”

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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