Campbellsville Independent Schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Board of Education members approved an amended calendar at their regular meeting on Monday, July 13.
Board members also discussed the District’s plan to reopen schools, which will include two learning options.
Students can attend school in-person, as normal, while abiding by some additional health guidelines from the Kentucky Department of Education, Taylor County Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or attend school virtually.
CIS will begin classes on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The last day for students will be Thursday, May 20.
The calendar includes fall and spring breaks, but there will be no Early Release Fridays.
CIS Superintendent Kirby Smith stressed to Board members that the Return to School plans are exactly that – plans – which likely will change.
“It’s a starting point,” he said. “We know things could change.”
Smith said many Kentucky schools are starting class on Wednesday, Aug. 26, with some opening earlier and some later.
He said teachers are preparing for additional NTI days in the 2020-2021 school year, as were used to complete the 2019-2020 year.
In the CIS Return to School plan, Smith said schools will open at 7:30 a.m.
“We don’t want any kids getting there before 7:30,” he said. “We don’t want busses pulling up at 7:15 and kids sitting on a bus for 15 minutes.”
In the first learning option – the traditional, in-person approach – there will be additional health guidelines for students and staff members.
“Students would have to be social distanced,” he said. “And, if not, they have to have masks on.
“If you choose the traditional route, nothing changes. Other than, you’re wearing a mask and being social distanced.”
Additional cleaning practices will also be put in place at each school, to ensure students are in an environment that is sanitized many times each day.
Smith said any time students will be moving in the hallways, cafeteria, restroom or classrooms, they must wear a mask. But when sitting in their desks, at least six feet from the closest person, students can take off their masks.
Should a student have to ask a teacher a question, sharpen their pencil or get up from their seat for any other reason, they must be wearing a mask.
Class sizes will be reduced, Smith said, to allow students to have the room they need.
Smith said students in preschool and kindergarten don’t have to wear masks, but all other students will.
“We’re going to have some trainings with the little ones,” he said.
“We’re going to have to work with them. That’s the guidelines right now with KDE and the CDC.”
But again, Smith said, school is not set to begin until late next month.
“If I was a betting man, I would say we’re going to be talking about some changes, even to this plan.”
Smith said CIS officials can say, this is our plan right now.
“But we need a couple things out of you – patience and flexibility,” he said. “That’s going to be key as we move forward.”
At 7:30 a.m. each morning, students can enter the building and have their temperatures checked.
“Any temperature that is 100.5 or higher, you can’t come in,” he said.
The plan now, Smith said, is for students who are dropped off at school by their parents to have their temperatures checked as their parents wait.
“If they’re good to go, they come on,” he said. “If not, we show the parent and the parent pulls off with their child.”
Students must be temperature-free for three days without medicine before returning to school.
Those records will be given to the school nurse.
For those who drive or walk to school and have a high temperature, Smith said their parents will be contacted before they return home.
Students will receive a grab and go breakfast to avoid gathering together in the cafeteria.
In the second learning option – the virtual/online academy – students will attend classes online.
Smith said the virtual program is still a work in progress, with plans to be finalized in early August.
He said the program will be computer-based or similar to the NTI materials used last school year.
Smith said teachers are going to be calling parents soon to ask whether their children will attend school in person or virtually. Knowing how many students will be in the buildings will help finalize plans.
“I’m going to continue weekly, if not daily, interactions with [the health department],” he said.
“If we see an up-tick in the community with cases, and they feel we need to look at another plans, we could go completely virtual.”
Smith said the most important aspect of the Return to School plan is to always consider what is safest for children.
“And, right now, everything seems good for a start on Aug. 26. But, it is July 13.”
Transportation to and from school, Smith said, will be very important.
Students will have their temperature taken as they board the busses, given hand sanitizer and sit in an assigned seat. The bus will be loaded from back to front, and then be unloaded one seat at a time.
Smith said students can sit in every seat, but must wear a mask.
“They’ll have to be masked the whole time,” he said. “The concern with that is temperature. It will be warm in August.”
Busses will be sanitized after each load, Smith said, and drivers and monitors will wear masks.
Should a student be at a bus stop and their temperature be too high to attend school, and their parents not be at the stop, they will board the bus and sit in a specific spot, he said. That student will be taken to a separate room at the school and their parents will be called.
After getting off the bus, students will receive a breakfast and walk to their classroom.
“No big assemblies,” he said. “No sitting in the gym.”
Students could also be sent directly to their classes and breakfast brought to them later, Smith said.
For lunch, he said, students will be spaced out in the cafeterias.
Gymnasiums and the high school auditorium could be used as eating spots, Smith said, should additional space be needed.
“There’s just so much unknown,” he said. “I feel pretty good with what we have and I think our group has put a lot of time and effort in coming up with this.”
But, once again, Smith said, these plans could change.
KDE officials have given each district flexibility in changing its operations, such as using an extra week for fall break to sanitize schools, should that be needed.
Board member Angie Johnson said some parents have asked what happens if a student or teacher should test positive for COVID-19.
Smith said there are plans in place should that happen.
“It’s not an automatic quarantine of every kid in that class,” he said.
Smith said health department officials will be notified and begin contract tracing protocols.
“What they look for is, was that student in close contact for 10 minutes or more, closer than six feet, for multiple lengths of time.”
If not, Smith said, and no one is showing symptoms, quarantine isn’t necessary.
Some parents might hear that there is a case at a school and then automatically want to keep their children at home.
“We have to understand, fear is real,” Smith said. “But we just have to say to them, we are following the guidelines and we’re doing the best we can.”
Should a student begin attending school in person, but want to switch to the virtual program, that will be allowed. There will be a limit as to how many times and how often that can happen, Smith said.
Board member Barkley Taylor said some parents might not be comfortable if they hear some students have tested positive, which could make attendance drop.
Attendance for the 2020-2021 school year will be based on participation, Smith said.
“So, if that does happen, those children could choose to go virtual at that point,” he said.
Should there be an increasing number of students or teachers to test positive, Smith said, the health department might advise that the District shut down for a couple of weeks.
If that happened, he said, all students would continue their studies virtually.
Smith said the District has ordered 500 new computers for student use to make sure they have what they need to complete their virtual work.
An issue that is still being discussed, Smith said, is having water stations at the schools.
Coolers could be placed in each classroom, with a designated person to give students a cup of water. Students using water bottles has also been discussed, he said.
Board Chair Pat Hall asked if students will still be able to bring their lunch to school.
Smith said he believes that will be allowed, but will have to be discussed. Food allergies will have to be made known and some alternate plans might need to be in place.
He said officials are still discussing and planning for what every aspect of the school day will look like.
“We’ve got to retrain everybody on what school looks like,” he said.
Smith said discussions will continue about plans to reopen the schools, along with upcoming open house dates and online registration.
“We’ve got time to decide what those open house dates will look like,” he said.
With the details of the reopening that have been announced, Smith said, he hopes parents can find some comfort in what has been discussed.
“I think once they know the start date, and what it’s going to look like, a lot of folks are going to take a deep breath and then they are going to start deciding, okay, are we going to send them back or not.”
Smith said he asks that everyone remember that we all need to have flexibility and patience.
“We’ll do the best we can,” he said.
More information about the plan to reopen CIS will be announced in coming weeks.