By: Madison Fugate
Powell County schools are preparing for the return of the upcoming school year with hopes of a more normal routine than what’s previously been the reality inside the classrooms. Opening day with staff has been scheduled for August 16th. During this opening day event, twenty-one retirees will also receive an invitation as opening day was not possible this past year. Retirees will receive a gift as well as being recognized at said event.
Will masks be required in the upcoming school year? According to information shared by Superintendent Dr. Anthony Orr, the CDC released guidelines recently that the recommendations were for unvaccinated students and staff to wear a mask. Orr goes on to share that the Department of Education should soon release more detailed guidance on what to expect, “They don’t expect that guidance to be directives. In other words, that will still be a local decision.” Orr and Meredith Robinson of the PCS administration have been in close contact with the Powell County Health Department Director, Stacy Crase, to seek her guidance and opinion on the matter.
“Unless something changes, the lean right now is that we would not require masks for students.” Considering the consequences, PCS administration have sided with this option in considering the large amount of families who would quite possibly choose to stay home if masks were required for students. The superintendent then announced that he is still waivering on a definite decision for staff as to whether or not a mask will be required for them or not. A good portion of PCS staff have reported to have been vaccinated at this point, over 70%, to be more exact. “In talking with Stacy Crase, we would love to see 75%,” Orr adds.
One of the main concerns considering a mask requirement for PCS staff is the issues created with quarantining. It was made apparent that unvaccinated staff will still have to quarantine for fourteen days if they come in contact with a positive case. Powell County schools were forced to close their doors in November as a result of too many staff having come into contact with positive cases and not being able to enter the building. In an effort to eliminate future closings and keep things running smoothly, Orr wants to encourage all staff to get vaccinated, “things that I think will help that is that they won’t have to wear masks if they’re vaccinated.”
Staff that are not vaccinated who have to quarantine will have to use their sick days as the emergency COVID days are no longer available. Orr shares his intentions with the board to communicate these things thoroughly to staff upon returning this year. The overall goal is to keep kids in the building until the end of the school year, with no interruptions.