Acknowledging that families are facing child care challenges, Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton said Wednesday that the next several weeks will determine whether WCPS can fully reopen its schools next semester.
“We do want to get all of our students back that want to be here,” Clayton said during a community meeting streamed via Facebook Live. “Our goal is to do that starting second semester.”
Reopening its schools in late August, WCPS was one of the earliest in the state to do so, albeit on a hybrid, A/B schedule that blended distance learning and at least two days each school week for in-person classes. Alternatively, students were able to receive instruction purely online if they chose to do so, something Clayton anticipated would remain an option for the rest of the school year, he said Wednesday.
WCPS wants to expand its in-person offerings beginning next semester, but with the virus escalating in Kentucky and across the country, the next several weeks will be pivotal, Clayton said.
“We don’t know what the next six to eight weeks is going to look like. … We know that right now is a very telling time,” Clayton said of the pandemic.
The goal, Clayton said, is to have all students back in person if they so choose. The district isn’t going to make that call anytime soon, though.
“We want to see how this is impacting other school districts,” Clayton said, explaining he wants to see how other school districts do while following that route.
WCPS doesn’t want to be first, Clayton said, but “we want to get it right.”
The district previously said it plans to continue offering its current hybrid model until Dec. 18, after which the holiday break begins and continues to Jan. 1.
Unlike the Bowling Green Independent School District, WCPS chose to keep Fridays as distance learning days for its students. Teachers use the time to plan lessons, collaborate with colleagues and tutor struggling students, Clayton said.
Clayton said he hopes to notify parents of the district’s plans for the second semester in coming weeks, ideally by Nov. 19, which is the Warren County school board’s next scheduled meeting.
Clayton also acknowledged the struggles families are facing in finding adequate child care when their children aren’t in school.
“Coming back hybrid did not address the child care needs that many, I mean many, of our families have,” Clayton said.
But the approach has allowed students and staff to better adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Additionally, Clayton said there’s no evidence to suggest the virus is spreading among students in the district’s buildings. He described only one instance of staff-to-staff member spread and another between students at an extracurricular event.
“Now, I can’t tell you that it hasn’t occurred, but what I can tell you is no information has come in our direction, as of today, that would suggest a spread of this virus during the school day,” Clayton said.
As of Wednesday morning, when the event was held, WCPS district nurse Holli McDaniel said the district had “nine faculty and staff that are active (cases), 20 in-person students and six virtual academy students.” She cited the district’s online virus dashboard, which she noted only reports lab-confirmed cases.
During the meeting, several administrators outlined the district’s approach to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, including procedures for contact tracing and sanitation. Along with thorough cleanings of school facilities, the district is also making use of electrostatic sprayers and ionized HVAC systems to curb virus spread.
“I will tell you that right now we’re seeing an uptick” in cases across the state, Clayton said. “But the reality is, in Warren County, we’ve been dealing with this for several months.”
Similar community meetings will be held in coming months, with the next taking place Dec. 10 at Warren East High School.
A State of the District address will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at Warren Central High School.