The Bourbon School Board met in an open session on July 16 to discuss the school’s plan to reopen in August. Although the board didn’t land on a definite plan, members did lay out several precautions the district be taking for the upcoming year.
Earlier in the week, Superintendent Kyle Gibbs sent out a survey to parents and teachers asking how they felt about reopening. Based on the results, the board came up with several plans for the year: a regular five-day school week, a four-day school week with virtual schooling on Wednesdays, or a completely virtual school year.
“It’s an ever-evolving situation and it’s been a surreal experience to navigate through this. Just when I think we’re through it, we get what we’ve gotten now with the spike in cases. We just want to do what’s best for the majority,” said Gibbs.
Twenty percent of those who took the survey said they were not comfortable coming back or sending their children back to school, but 38 percent said they didn’t feel the virtual option worked well over the spring semester. More than half of those surveyed said they would like some kind of blended option. In order to maintain those students who are not comfortable returning, the board said a virtual option will most likely be available in call cases, but students attending virtually will not be eligible to play sports.
Whether the school chooses a four- or five-day week, several procedures will be put in place to ensure the safety of all students and staff. There will be symptom checks every day, an increase in hygiene and cleaning routines, electrostatic sprayers will be used to disinfect rooms, and the school will social distance where possible. A large number of staff has already agreed to wear masks, but they won’t be required.
Board Vice President John Craig voiced concerns over students who may not have internet access falling further behind. If the students are forced to go back to a virtual option, the school is looking to make sure those students have the necessary tools by increasing bandwidth on the campus for teachers, purchasing Chromebooks with built-in Wi-Fi for students, and obtaining mobile hotspots for students to check out. Staff member Tammy Byrd is also applying for a grant to get 60 webcams and subscriptions to record lessons and videos for students
“I don’t think that a lot of the things we can do can stop it. It will come to our school and that’s the reality of the situation I live with every day. Short of telling us we can’t come to school, I don’t know what else we can do,” Gibbs remarked,
“That’s why we’re considering a four-day week. That one day off isn’t to magically prevent COVID-19, it’s to help prepare us to go back to online. We’re not doing this to prevent so much as to prepare for that two weeks or month or whatever. That also adds in an extra day of deep cleaning and gives everybody that peace of mind.”
Another survey will be sent out to parents in the coming weeks asking their thoughts on the three plans brought up at the meeting. As of right now, the school start date in Wednesday, August 26, however, that is still subject to change.