First day of school for students is August 24
By Jeff Neagle
Face-to-face classes ended on March 13 for the Adair County School System due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the start of school for the 2020-2021 school year has been pushed back to August 24 for students.
School will be different for students and faculty this year, but as the summer has progressed, precautions and protections that were expected to be requirements have been reduced to recommendations.
For students being transported by bus, masks will be required. “We want to transport kids, but we can’t make that many bus runs to put 13 or 14 kids on a bus. We have to have a bus load. Two to a seat is 44 and most of ours have 60 plus,” said Superintendent Pamela Stephens in Thursday’s school board meeting.
Masks aren’t the only requirement for busses. “Every child that gets on a bus will have their temperature taken before they get on the bus. They still have to get on the bus [if they have a temperature], and we will bring them to school and call to have someone come get them.” Stephens said they are going to accept the fevered student on the bus because many times there is no parent at home and the school system doesn’t want to leave the child alone. New KEA guidelines recommend this practice, with feverish students being as isolated as possible on the bus ride in.
What remains to be seen is how this will be accepted by parents and how this situation would affect other students on the bus. Adair County buses carry students from across the county that are dispersed to each of the Adair County schools. It will be difficult to ensure that students keep their masks on at all times while on a school bus, potentially exposing students at all the schools.
Classrooms will have different protocols than buses. “If you are in school, we ask you to wear a mask,” said Dr. Stephens. “I was on a Zoom this morning [Thursday] with Wayne Young, the attorney for KASA (Kentucky Association of School Administrators), and he said there is really not a way that we can make [students] wear a mask.”
Stephens said that while some will want to wear a mask, some will not, and it could be for legitimate reasons. “If they don’t wear a mask, we will have to request social distancing.”
While the plan for classrooms are mainly requests, coaches and athletes will be held to a different, higher standard. “I went up to the high school and met with [Principal] Young, [Vice-Principal] Parnell, the athletic trainer Mrs. Rebecca Cravens and [High School Athletic Director] Campbell. They had been working on the plan for athletics based on what the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has recommended.”
The plan specifies when masks and social distancing are required as well as the number of players that can be working together in groups.
The higher standard for coaches and athletes comes at the end of the plan. There are two forms, one for students and their parents, and one for coaches. According to Stephens, the form states that the athlete or coach promises to will follow these guidelines every time they are gathered, whether it is for practice or competition.
“They know what they have to do as coach, they know what the expectations are as players,” said Stephens. “I think that it’s a very positive thing that we get all those signatures. For coaches, it says if they don’t follow these rules, they forfeit their job as a coach.”
Stephens said the school system is in the process of ordering hand sanitizer, masks and thermometers to take temperatures. However, sports and other extracurricular activities will not be provided these items. Unless they have made arrangements for their schools to order extra for them, they will be required to find their own supplies.
The late start date has affected the entire school calendar. Robbie Harmon, Director of Pupil Personnel, explained the choices for the revised calendar. “This [calendar] gives us some leeway on the number of instructional days and it also moves our start date back a couple of weeks just so that we can see what other districts are experiencing that start early so we can learn from them what’s going on inside the districts.”
One change students and staff will find right away is the elimination of early release Friday (ERF). “We talked with central office, we talked with principals, and the calendar committee thought it was a really good idea for this year and this year only to go away from ERF. We don’t know how long we will be in school. It may be two weeks, it may be two months, we may be in all year. But the time we get with kids we felt like any day in school needs to be a full day to get as much education as possible.”
Labor Day, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents Day are all remaining in the schedule as days off. Fall break will be one week from October 5 through October 9. Thanksgiving holiday remains at three days off. Christmas break was reduced by two days and now runs from December 23 through January 1. Spring break is one week from April 5 through April 9. The last day for students is set for May 21.
Students will have the option to attend school virtually. More information on this will be coming soon.