W’burg schools hoping to return to in-person classes as soon as COVID-19 incidence rates drop sufficiently
Principal Marc Taylor told the Williamsburg Independent Board of Education Tuesday that he hopes to know sometime within the next three days about whether the district will be able to resume in-person classes possibly as early as next week.
Taylor noted that he monitors COVID-19 cases daily, and that if the county can get back down to orange status then in-person instruction could resume starting Monday.
Officials could announce a decision about returning to in-person classes as early as Wednesday or as late as Thursday evening depending on the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Whitley County this week.
The Whitley County Health Department’s announcement of 20 new COVID-19 cases late Tuesday afternoon, it appears doubtful that the county’s incidence rate will drop enough for the school to return to in-person classes next week.
When the district returns to in-person instruction, parents will have the option of having their children continue learning from home five days a week, or returning to class two days a week through a hybrid program. Students returning to school would either attend classes in-person on Monday and Tuesday and do remote learning Wednesday and Thursday, or return to in-person classes on Wednesday and Thursday and do remote learning Monday and Tuesday.
Friday will be a remote learning day for all students.
Taylor said the district has been doing “targeted grouping” since the first of October averaging 120 students per day in building in small groups.
“We have seen great growth from students, who were maybe behind because of Internet issues,” Taylor told the school board during its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Superintendent Tim Melton said one thing that the district has been working on since the pandemic occurred is technology to help students with remote learning from home.
He said District Technology Coordinator/Chief Information Officer Parker Smith determined that most families in the district, who don’t have Internet service, qualify for free Internet service through a program through Charter Spectrum.
“Connectivity is important,” Melton said. “We are trying to communicate with folks to get them that opportunity for Internet.”
In other business, the board:
• Approved the purchase of a passenger school bus for the 2020-2021 school year, which will replace a 2001 handicap accessible bus. The school district is applying for Volkswagen settlement funds, which they hope will cover about half of the purchase price.
• Met in executive session to discuss “personnel” matters, but took no formal action.
• Recognized Smith for his hard work, especially during the pandemic. The award reads as follows:
“Thank you for all the work you have done to support the work of Williamsburg City School. The pandemic has brought about many changes to education and one of the biggest has been the use of technology. Going from a district that was just getting its first set of mobile devices when you arrived, to the current opportunity to be 1:1 district wide when all new devices arrive. A great deal of work has been put into making this happen, and this work began long before the pandemic with a technology plan that was aggressive and on-point. You have brought in partners like Data-Seam and Charter/Spectrum that fit right into the vision of the district. You have worked with Gear up and Laboki to bring new technology to the district. During the pandemic, you provided internet to areas around the school to allow access for families. This summer you inventoried all technology in the district. You have purchased all the programs that have assisted teachers during virtual instruction. You have put together all of the Chromebooks and distributed them. You have put together a new STEM lab and a new virtual reality lab for when we get back in-person classes. All of this has allowed Williamsburg City School to offer the best education for our students during the pandemic. Thank you, Parker, for all your hard work.”