Warren County Public Schools’ plans for reopening schools in the fall are still taking shape, but Superintendent Rob Clayton shared new details Wednesday during a question-and-answer session broadcast on the district’s Facebook page.
Speaking during the broadcast, which drew more than 1,000 viewers and elicited more than 700 comments, Clayton said WCPS plans to offer both distance learning and in-person instruction – and parents will get to choose.
“I think it’s very likely for us to anticipate that, when we start school back, we’ll have all of the students who want to be there coming back to school. We will expect them to be wearing masks” in accordance with current state guidance, Clayton said.
The district plans to offer masks to students in some capacity, Clayton said. One cost estimate WCPS received for such an undertaking totaled nearly $2 million, he said.
“We will have those on supply for those who need them,” Clayton said.
Currently, the district’s reopening task force is still developing recommendations for what reopening schools might look like in the fall, Clayton said, adding that more definitive decisions could be reached early next month.
However, parents will get an opportunity to provide feedback as early as this week, he said.
“We plan to send out a survey on Friday to all parents,” Clayton said.
Additionally, WCPS plans to provide updates through a new webpage that will launch in the near future.
It will include questions the district has received, and resources and recommendations handed down from state and federal authorities, according to WCPS spokeswoman Morgan Watson.
“We will be launching a WCPS reopening webpage where all of this information will be collected,” Watson said. That resource will be available “here in the next few days,” she said.
As districts across Kentucky plan for the looming school year amid the coronavirus crisis, the Kentucky Department of Education has recommended they plan for intermittent school closures and has suggested different instruction models they could implement.
One such model includes assigning students to rotating groups that experience in-person instruction on certain days each week – a notion Clayton suggested may not be feasible for WCPS. He was also skeptical of the prospect of closing one school while leaving others open in the event of an outbreak, as Gov. Andy Beshear suggested this week.
“I can’t envision the potential of having a particular school not in session for a short period of time while other schools are in session,” Clayton said, pointing to problems around how school districts are currently funded based on attendance.
That said, if an individual school – or even a single classroom – is a factor in an outbreak of COVID-19, “we will make individual decisions based upon that,” Clayton said.
Currently, WCPS plans to open Aug. 5, Clayton said. That date could be pushed back, however, if staff members need additional training to roll out distance learning smoothly.
“When we closed school on March 13 and went to nontraditional instruction, that’s much different than opening school in a distance learning format,” Clayton said. He reiterated a vow that WCPS will “raise the bar” with the quality of instruction it delivers remotely.
For those students who do choose the in-person instruction option, Clayton said, masks will play a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible. However, not all students will be required to wear one. That will depend on their individual health conditions. It is not recommended that students 5 years old and younger wear masks or face coverings.
The discussion also included representatives from the Barren River District Health Department, who shared information about contact tracing and how that might work in a school setting. Stringent cleaning practices by custodial staff will also be the norm.
When it comes to instruction, WCPS Director of Secondary Instruction Laura Hudson said distance learning will look quite different from the nontraditional instruction parents experienced this spring.
“We’ll be integrating technology into our traditional instructional design,” she said.
This could make intermittent school closures due to an outbreak less disruptive, Hudson said.
“This will allow us to maintain continuity during those transitions, and it will make them happen more smoothly,” she said.