Corbin Independent Schools will begin its 2020-21 school year on Aug. 26 and it will involve students attending both in person and virtually.
During a special-called board meeting Thursday night, the board voted unanimously to approve a new calendar in the wake of the COVID–19 pandemic and discussed proposed policy for allowing students to either return to school, or to be in the classroom by watching online.
Superintendent Dave Cox said parents/guardians will have the option to send students to school, or allow them to remain at home and attend classes online.
“We are making every attempt to livestream every class,” Cox said noting that the effort is underway to have cameras installed in classrooms by the beginning of school.
“The ones that we can’t, we will do traditional NTI days for students that remain at home,” he said.
In the coming days, packets will be arriving at student’s homes where their parent/guardian will receive information on the policies and procedures that will be in place in the upcoming school year and make known whether the student will come to school or attend virtually.
“Students may change at the end of a grading period, or discuss with the principal to see about changing if there is a change in circumstances,” Cox said.
“We are not going to let students change back and forth every week,” he said.
One issue the school system is working to resolve with the livestream, is how to protect student privacy. Cox said cameras in the classrooms will be pointed in a way to ensure students in the classroom do not appear on camera. Should a student in the classroom need to ask a question or be called upon by the teacher, the teacher will have the ability to turn off the camera and mute the sound while the teacher responds.
“It may be just as simple as pointing at a student,” Cox said when asked how teachers would call upon students without using names.
Students may still be asked to make presentations to the class. Cox said it would be another area where a teacher would have to shut off the camera and mute the sound while the presentation is made.
“We would not want presentations to stop, but there is no perfect answer,” Cox said, noting the teacher could then come back and summarize the presentation for the students watching on camera.
Cox said teachers have a number of professional development days scheduled before the beginning of school and questions would be addressed during that time.
“We have to do the very best we can,” Cox said.
Students attending in person will be required to wear masks. Those taking the bus to and from school will have to wear masks on the bus.
Upon arriving at school, students will have their temperatures checked before they are permitted to enter the building. Any student running a temperature above 100.4 degrees will not be permitted to attend.
“We have an isolation room to place students by themselves while we call their parents to pick them up,” Cox said adding that parents/guardians of students are asked to check their child’s temperature before bringing them to school.
As to classes such as physical education, band, and choir, where masks would be difficult, or impossible to wear while participating, Cox said those are decisions yet to be made.
Physical education may involve low intensity activities, such as walking.
Cox said officials from the Kentucky Musical Educators Association are working to determine how far apart students playing wind instruments, such as flute, clarinet, trumpet or tuba must be in order to prevent the possible spread of COVID–19
As to the choir class, Cox said one option with the high school class is to move it to the auditorium where students may be distanced and still sing.
“We are waiting on guidelines, but we are trying our very best to have those classes as close to normal as possible,” Cox said. “We will have to see.”
Cox said with seven weeks until classes begin, faculty, staff and administrators will continue to try to address contingencies, but there will likely be something that needs to be addressed after school begins because it wasn’t considered.
Corbin officials are frequently speaking with other district officials, especially those at Knox, Laurel, Whitley and Williamsburg in an effort to cover everything.
“We are trying to be as consistent as possible,” Cox said.
One thing that is different from calendars in previous years is the change to two days of fall break in mid-October as opposed to a full week.
The board members agreed that it was best for the students, who are returning to the classroom after missing more than three months in the spring, to have as much seat time as possible.
In addition, the board members noted that adding those days to the calendar would allow the school system to bank classroom time should there be a second wave of COVID–19 or other circumstances, such as a flu outbreak, which causes school to be closed to in-person classes.
Cox said that if schools are closed for a substantial period again, officials with the Kentucky Department of Education have agreed that districts would have unlimited non-traditional instructional (NTI) days available.
“We still get flexibility and still get seat time if there is a spike,” said Board Member Kim Croley.
Fall break will run Oct. 15 through 18.
Holiday break will be Dec. 18 until Jan. 3, with students returning to class on Jan. 4. Students will be dismissed for the break following a half day of class on Dec. 17.
Spring Break will begin following a half day of class on April 2, with students returning on April 12.
The last day of school is currently scheduled for May 3, which will be a half day.
High school graduation is currently scheduled for Sunday, May 9.