Christy hopes kids can return to school soon
By RANDY PATRICK
Clark County students have been in virtual learning since last spring except for a few days, but as COVID-19 numbers steadily drop, Superintendent Paul Christy is hoping they can get back in schools sooner than Feb. 22, his target date for resuming in-person learning.
The county is still in the “red zone” in terms of coronavirus infections, with the incidence rate at 62.24. That’s still more than twice the critical rate of 25 persons per 100,000 population, but it has been as high as 90 in the county, and in the past week, it’s been around 50.
“We’re set right now for a return to in-person classes for Feb. 22. I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to do something sooner than that. If the numbers continue to drop, then I think we’re ready to have conversations about getting back to in-person,” Christy said during a presentation to the Board of Education during an online meeting Tuesday night.
What that in-person instruction would look like also needs to be a discussion between the administration and school board members.
Christy said the schools are well prepared to return to the hybrid model that was in place for about a week last fall. Under that “A-B” model, one group of students would have classes in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and virtual classes Thursdays and Fridays, while the second group does the opposite. Everybody would be online on Wednesdays.
The superintendent said Gov. Andy Beshear’s new guidelines allow school districts in the red category to do a “modified hybrid” schedule with even fewer students allowed in class at one time to maintain adequate social distancing, but Christy doesn’t like that.
“In my opinion, that’s going to dramatically slow down instruction because now you’ve got your staff, your teachers, are presenting the same lesson five times during the week to five different groups of people, all the while trying to maintain some virtual things going on,” he said.
In response to a question by Board Member Sherry Richardson about changes to the governor’s guidelines, Christy said that besides allowing modified hybrid instruction for counties in the red, or critical category, regular hybrid instruction is now allowed for counties in the orange, or accelerated category, meaning 10-25 infections per 100,000. Under the old guidelines, districts had to be in the yellow zone (one to 10) to have in-person learning.
Small groups allowed
Although Clark County schools are technically in virtual or distance learning, teachers have started bringing some students back in for individual or small-group instruction for two hours a day, which is allowed by the state.
All special education students are allowed back in classrooms, and “any other students that the teachers and schools recognize may be struggling, having difficulties, whether that may be with internet connectivity or whatever,” have been invited back in for short sessions, Christy said.
The superintendent said that in the past two weeks, the district has had about 1,252 kids who have had in-person instruction with teachers.
“If you look, each week, we’re increasing that,” Christy said.
The district has also been running three school buses for those students who have no other means of transportation.
The district is also continuing to use the other buses to deliver meals to children’s homes. But once in-person instruction returns for most students, the schools won’t have enough buses to do that, and parents who opt to have their children continue all-online instruction will have to pick up their meals at their children’s schools after classes.
COVID limits sports
Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, all are in the red except for three that are in the orange zone, and one that is in the yellow, Robertson County. George Rogers Clark High School’s boys basketball team was supposed to have played Robertson on Saturday, but their team is under quarantine because two players on another team they played tested positive. So GRC’s game with Robertson County is canceled.
Also, the boys were supposed to have played Montgomery County Friday night, but that team is quarantined, so they’re going to play Pulaski County instead at home. The girls team is still planning to play Montgomery.
That’s according to Kentucky High School Athletics Association guidelines, and “we’re following those to the letter,” Christy told the board.
Vaccine on the way
Richardson asked Christy about the status of COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty and staff.
“We’ll be receiving our vaccine sometime next week,” Christy said. “My understanding is that there will be enough for all who request it. Everyone who asks for a dose of the vaccine is going to be able to get it.”
The superintendent said the Moderna vaccinations are tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, probably at multiple locations. He said he had offered to have all eight of the CCPS registered nurses help the Health Department administer the vaccinations, and three RNs from the state’s Area Technology Center have offered to help as well. Some firefighter-EMTs may also assist, so that, he hopes, all of the shots can be given in one day.
The first doses of the Moderna vaccine is supposed to provide about 40 percent immunity, and the second booster shot, taken 28 days later, is supposed to raise it to 95 percent, Christy said.
Once an employee has had both shots, he said, within seven days, all COVID-related leaves of absence “go away,” and employees are left with only their regular time off, such as sick days and family or medical leave.
However, he said, he hoped the board would continue to provide emergency leave to any employees who test positive for the virus or have to quarantine.