‘Now is an opportune time than ever,’ WCPS talks August 24 reopening

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 8:33 PM CDT
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Students in Warren County will now attend a hybrid model of in-person and virtual classes. If they choose, some students will go in-person Monday and Wednesday, and the rest will go Tuesday and Thursday. On Friday, all students will attend class virtually. The first day of school is still set for Monday, August 24.

On Monday and Wednesday, students with last names starting with A-J will attend in-person, and on Tuesday and Thursday students with last names K-Z will be in the school building. However, if there are family members in the same household with different last names, they will be able to go on the same days.

“All of the conversations that we’ve had with our local health officials pointed us to the direction that now is an opportune time than ever, in term of trying to do the soft opening, bring our students in,” said Superintendent Rob Clayton.

Their first day of school goes against the state’s recommendation of delaying the start of in-person classes to September 28.

”With the governor’s recommendation to delay the opening another eight weeks, at that time I felt it was too long for us to sit back and basically watch how things played out,” Clayton explained, “I don’t have a lot of confidence that Sept. 28 is going to be any different than where we were at a month ago.”

Clayton went on to say that students need in-person classes for their mental health at this point.

“We know there is a huge social and emotional component to our students being out of school now for more than five months. We feel that is every bit of critical as their academic needs.”

The superintendent pulled a graph showing data of positive COVID-19 cases by month in Warren County. He said the district is closely monitoring data, which helped them decide on the in-person start date of August 24.

“Our CEO’s of our local hospitals, and our director of our Barren River Health Department all are supportive of us moving forward with this approach,” Clayton said. “The data we’re looking at really helps us understand where we’re at as a community in terms of the virus.”

At the special called meeting on Monday, several parents, teachers and other members of the community showed up. Some publicly voiced their opinion on how they thought school should start August 24.

At least three parents of children with special needs attended. One mother was advocating for the hybrid schedule that was in turn passed. She said it would be best for her son’s education and social health.

“If they did offer that option, we would not only be able to protect him and keep him home a majority of the time, but we would also be able to give him the services that he so desperately needs,” Cassondra Lashley said.

13 News also asked Superintendent Rob Clayton about how the district will handle positive cases within schools. At the meeting on Monday, multiple board members admitted that positive cases will inevitably happen.

“The challenge for us is to identify when that occurs. Follow our process, which involves contact tracing. In terms of who would quarantine, it would really depend on who would meet the criteria,” Clayton explained. “We know that with all our individuals wearing face coverings, that will greatly minimize the spread of this virus.”

Clayton went on to point that students could contract the virus outside of school, and then bring it into a school building.

“People are going to assume that it occurred in our school and it was transferred in our school. But the reality is, the data is real clear. It comes from your community, and is brought into your school,” Clayton said.

The district also has a protocol in place for if a student of staff member is directly exposed to COVID-19. If they are asked to quarantine, they will have to get tested before returning to school.

“There really is a process for every scenario,” Clayton said.

The school is providing COVID-19 testing for faculty and staff. The superintendent said that will be available as early as next week.

“But again, testing tells you where the virus is, but it does nothing in of itself to prevent the spread,” Clayton said. “So that is why we need to encourage the safety measures of wearing the face coverings etc.”

Superintendent Clayton concluded the interview by saying how proud he was of faculty and staff for working together to come up with a plan before school starts on August 24.

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