By: Madison Fugate
The Powell County Board of Education have had no choice but to remain diligent and on their toes, so to speak, at all times to determine the best scenarios for our students and leaders here in Powell County. There are quite a few speculative and popular questions that have been roaming the minds of all citizens, “When will school open back?” or, “What requirements will my children and I be faced with?” Many students who are dedicated to their sports wonder if they should look forward to the next season, or if this too will be taken away from them. Currently, PCS leaders are designating these concerns as their top priorities. It should be made known the overwhelming series of events and potential incidents that require careful consideration by the administrative staff and board leaders in ensuring PCS staff and students are prepared for these unnatural circumstances.
On June 17th, Dr. Anthony Orr, Powell County Superintendent, emailed a detailed video to the families of Powell County students regarding the considerations of what the upcoming school year could look like. At the beginning of the video, Dr. Orr leads with this statement, “I want to make clear that we have not made any concrete decisions at this point.” He later adds there is hope these school leaders will be able to communicate their decisions to the public sometime in mid July. There are presently a couple contrasting options being debated on by the PCS administrative teams and the Powell County Board of Education. Each plan is similar in terms of the standard 185 day contract for employees, 1062 instructional hours, elementary recess and the fact that funding mechanism is still uncertain. Dr. Orr makes clear there are no plans to in any way “cut elementary recess.” He does describe PCS leaders’ intentions to consider possible changes and fine tuning to the current systems in place for these breaks.
Dr. Orr begins with the description of the first option under consideration. In January, there was a calendar with an approved student start day of August 11th. More recently there has been a moderated calendar with an option to begin school on August 25th. This new schedule currently under consideration includes labor day off, fair day off, a planning day for teacher’s in October, a traditional Christmas and Spring break with a possible end date of June 2nd. This schedule would not allow for the traditional fall break, but overall is very similar to past school years with this one exception, calendar wise. The next prepared option would allow the flexibility to begin school after Labor Day. This is the biggest and most noticeable difference. The planned days off would also be a relevant difference in the decision making. The planned days off for this option would include fair day, election day and Christmas break. This calendar would allow for a possible end date of June 8th.
After the announcement of options, Orr then instructs “We know that healthy at school is going to require social distancing.” Orr then weighs in on some of the factors of the large population of students who ride the school buses. It is believe the school system will still be able to transport students in buses as before. Each student would be required to wear a face mask and their temperature would need to be taken before they are able to occupy the bus. The requirements of masks of students in the classrooms have recently been relaxed. It has been decided by state leaders if students and teachers are able to maintain a 6 feet distance at all times, then there would be no need for a mask. However, both the size of the classrooms and class sizes create an issue for this allowance in Powell County’s school buildings. Orr claims he is continuing to closely follow the issue across the state to determine the concrete route. Plexiglass is not recommended for fear of numerous accidents that could occur from the use of. Pre-entry temperature checks and face masks would most definitely be recommended by the students and staff. There will be frequent opportunities for students and staff to sanitize and wash their hands in addition to frequent sanitizing of high touched surfaces. PCS leaders are still considering the effects of the use of the cafeteria and for now it can be assumed classroom lunches prove to be the best option.
“What if there is another spike in positive tests?” you may be asking yourself. Administrative staff and the board have also considered this scenario as a possibility as well. Dr. Orr explains the school system may need to take a brief shutdown as they have in the past for treatment of the common influenza illness. They are also looking into integrating technology more and more for each student for extended shut downs. The school system leaders are hoping they can avoid the rotation schedules. Orr also addresses the students who may be more vulnerable to this illness, or, who may live with family members with vulnerability. He assures special accommodations for these specif cases are being well thought out that would ensure the parents are more comfortable while keeping these students safe while learning. He then goes on to say, “It may be best for those students to learn at home on a full time basis.” One possibility would be live streaming to the students at home while the teacher teaches. Another possibility would be offering an online virtual school. Students would not work with their teaches through live stream as in the other option, they would instead have the ability to access schooling digitally. Dr. Orr relays he would be glad to hear your feedback and would be open to your thoughts through email email@example.com.