Breathitt County Schools teams are currently developing plans that prioritize the health and safety of our students, families, and employees for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Because the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving, open communication, collaboration, and flexibility will be key. The leadership teams at each school, which consist of teachers and principals, are creating plans that put students first and include strategies for how to best serve students whether learning takes place inside our school buildings, in a fully online environment, or in a model that incorporates both.
To allow for thorough planning and preparation, the Breathitt Board of Education has moved the start date of school from August 4 to August 24. This will allow more time to monitor the conditions in our community and provide more professional development and training for teachers. Teachers will begin professional development on August 17.
Where We Are
As Breathitt County Schools explores options to potentially open school buildings and hold in-person classes in the fall, safety is at the center of all discussions. Breathitt County Schools is committed to following all guidance and directions from the Department of Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Here’s the latest guidance from KDE.
Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman is leading the state’s effort to develop recommendations for school districts to get back in school buildings while addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Lt. Governor Coleman, the state is working with five principles for local districts to consider while preparing for a return to school: wearing masks, practicing social distancing, hand/surface sanitizing, temperature checks, and contact tracing. While final decisions on these measures and what the new school year might look like are still being developed, we want to ensure you have the most up-to-date information about where we are in the process.
BCS has established a Re-Entry Task Force, composed of district and school leadership, department directors, and teachers. The Task Force is supported by the Breathitt County Health Department and is currently in the process of finalizing the details of a Breathitt County Schools re-entry plan that adheres to the health and safety guidelines provided.
Please know that adjustments may have to be made to any decision announced, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases currently in our community as well as updated recommendations from health experts. As always, we put students first in all decision making. Any decision will be made in the best interest of student and staff health and safety. We miss our students, and we know that during these challenging times, our families will continue to come together to support learning!
Considerations for the Start of School
In order to make the best possible decisions regarding our students, the district is taking multiple factors into consideration.
We know that:
A traditional classroom environment with in-person instruction is the best learning environment for children.
Currently, there is neither a COVID-19 vaccine nor a fully effective treatment available. We also know that a number of our students and members of our staff have, or live with someone who has, underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to more severe complications of the virus.
Many families are returning to work outside the home and would prefer that their child be in a school building during the day.
Under the current guidance, all students would be required to wear masks for the majority of the school day, which can be especially challenging to maintain for our youngest students, those with special needs, and those with certain medical conditions.
Square footage in our classrooms and other common areas may make spacing students six feet apart challenging to maintain during the entirety of the school day. Directional and information signs are being posted throughout our schools to assist with this requirement.
While some student support services would work well in an online or virtual environment, others would not be as readily available or facilitated as effectively in an online or virtual environment.
A positive COVID test and/or exposure to a COVID positive person would require some students or staff to quarantine at home with little to no notice.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) for school staff and students who may forget their masks at home would need to be purchased. Currently, the district has ordered three (3) masks per student and school employee to address this need.
For Our Employees
The majority of our employees have been working remotely since March when our physical school buildings closed. BCS is continuing to develop a plan for employees to return to their work locations. Those staff who have returned to work follow the released guidance and safety protocols to ensure that employees are “Healthy at Work.” As we continue to focus on safety, additional information regarding the procedures for returning to work for faculty and staff will be released.