Hundreds of employees for McCracken County Public Schools received their second COVID-19 vaccine doses Friday, as the school system plans to start offering in-person learning four days a week soon.
Starting the week of March 1, the four day in-person schedule will be Tuesday through Friday. Monday is reserved for virtual learning and “deep cleaning of school buildings,” as stated by McCracken County Schools Superintendent Steve Carter in a letter Thursday.
“We’ve been monitoring local COVID-19 data closely, preparing for the time we could safely return to more frequent in-person learning,” Carter said, in the letter.
“That time finally came. McCracken County is no longer ‘in the red,’ with an incidence rate of 12. This means McCracken (has) seen only 12 average new daily cases for every 100,000 residents over the last seven days.”
Six-hundred-fifty COVID-19 vaccinations were planned Friday at Reidland Middle School, along with a location at McCracken County High School. The school system’s first clinics were held in late January, where 650 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered for the first dose.
In his letter, Carter explained the second round of vaccinations further improves conditions to allow for safe, in-person learning.
“We are beyond grateful to Baptist Health and the team of school nurses, staff and administrators who made this unprecedented vaccination effort possible,” he said.
“We will continue our current hybrid schedule until the week of March 1 to allow time for staff inoculations to take full effect. We’re so excited to welcome our kids back to school more often and to finish out the school year strong.”
The group of staff members who visited the Reidland gym Friday for their shot included Lone Oak Elementary first-grade teacher Jennifer Ellington.
“For me, it’s actually my first shot,” she told The Sun. “Most everybody here is taking their second round. I was not able to do that the first time around, so I was on the waiting list, so this is my first shot today.”
Ellington believes it’s necessary “at this point” to do four day in-person school weeks, noting she teaches first grade and students are learning to read. Obviously, there’s been lots of adjustments over the past year.
“Every day is a different day,” she said.
“Every week has brought different challenges, so we’ve had to be very flexible. We’ve had to learn things on a weekly basis to be able to challenge the kids, to be able to keep the kids learning.”
According to Carter, families still have the option to do all-virtual learning for students through the end of the school year. He noted the schools will continue Kentucky’s “Healthy At School” guidelines and work with the Purchase District Health Department to monitor the coronavirus locally.
It’s something that Johnna DeJarnett, the schools’ assistant superintendent of personnel and finance, reiterated Friday, while at the Reidland gym.
“It’s very exciting,” she said, about the four day in-person schedule.
“We’ve been able to see our kids two days a week since after the holidays and so, that’s great, but we want them every day. Monday will remain a virtual day for our families, and families still have a virtual option if they’re not comfortable coming to schools and that’s perfectly fine, but we’re super excited to have them back the week after next.”
She said the school system will keep following “Healthy At School” guidelines and keep teaching students, loving them, feeding them and transporting them, as it looks forward to the next 11 weeks, through the end of the school year.
McCracken schools are already in the process of planning programs for students, in both June and July, for remediation and enrichment, she said.
“So, we can have them back in the buildings even this summer to help catch up from things that they missed out on during this last 12 months, and then next school year will look different too,” DeJarnett added. “We have lots of exciting things planned for them.”
As for Paducah Public Schools, its faculty and staff are expected to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine doses on Wednesday, as confirmed by public relations coordinator Wayne Walden.
The school board recently voted to change Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 from in-person days to non-traditional instruction, or virtual days.
“The second dose of the vaccine has typically created harsher side effects than the first dose,” Paducah schools stated on social media. “Changing Feb. 25 and 26 to NTI days will allow faculty and staff who experience harsher side effects from the second dose to work from home.”
It has also released a survey for parents to garner feedback about the possibility of having students attend school in-person for four days a week.