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School Administrators Try To Plan For The ‘New Normal’

Dennis Davis and Paul Ellis of Mercer County schools escort new students on their first day of school several years ago. (File image).

Jennifer Marsh

Herald Staff

jmarsh@harrodsburgherald.com

Schools have been closed since mid-March and recently ended their school years with distance learning, but the hard part has just begun according to the superintendents.

“The most difficult part of our current situation, personally, is the unknowing and not being able to make a plan,” said Dennis Davis superintendent of Mercer County schools. “I know from the many questions I am receiving daily all are struggling with this as well. Many teachers and parents have asked the question, ‘What will next fall look like?’”

Davis said it was a hard question to answer because that depends on what happens with COVID-19  this summer.

“We are working with the Mercer County Health Department, the Kentucky Department of Education and the governor’s office to be as prepared as possible to provide instruction for students regardless the level of the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.

All Kentucky schools have been asked to submit three separate calendars to the state and be prepared to implement any of them depending on the situation with the ongoing pandemic.

“What I do know is that school will look different next year and possibly until a vaccine is available. We are making plans to start the school year in our new normal,” Davis said. “The new normal will be a reduced number of students in the building at one time. We are also making plans for virtual options, and we will have a hybrid plan that will use both in-person and virtual options.”

The good news is the school has time to prepare for next fall, he said. Davis said he will make announcements as soon as a formal decision has been reached.

Burgin Independent is also in full preparation mode.

“Opening school this fall will be a huge undertaking,” said Will Begley, superintendent at Burgin Independent. The ever-changing information districts are receiving makes planning nearly impossible, he said.

“Fortunately, we are 10 weeks away from opening under our traditional school calendar so we have time on our side,” Begley said.

He said the three calendars the state requested include a pushed back start date as well as precautions for classrooms such as limited students, holding lunch in the classroom and not using the lockers.

“We are working on what that later school calendar looks like now,” Begley said. “We just have to let this play out a little bit and reevaluate where we are later in June.   We are in weekly conversations with KDE Commissioner Brown.”

Burgin also created a parent choice model giving parents a choice of direct instruction in the school or keeping their kids home for virtual instruction.

“The Parent Choice Model will take a lot of intentional planning,” Begley said. He said Burgin is in in a good position for that because of the technology teachers and students have at their disposal. “Virtual learning may be the only option for some families who have family members who have compromised health conditions.”

Both superintendents agree that opening plans are still very fluid and the information is changing daily.

For more information about Mercer Schools, visit www.mercer.kyschools.us.

For more information about Burgin Independent, visit www.burginschool.com.

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