The McCracken County School District is on the verge of fully starting the McCracken Virtual Academy, an online option for parents who want their students to take at-home instruction.
Participating students would use the Edgenuity learning platform with its own staffers providing instruction during the same hours as in-school students. The option is open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The school district would provide staff members to serve as facilitators of the program. Among their duties would be to follow attendance of the classes by the district’s students.
Assistant Superintendent Michael Ceglinski said at the MCSD Board meeting on Thursday that the district has about 80 students enrolled in the program thus far. The deadline to enroll was Friday.
“That is 32 high school students, 17 or 18 middle school students and right around 30 elementary-age students have been accepted into the program,” said Superintendent Steve Carter. “We’ve already got our staff aligned, and communication has been made with some of those.
“We will continue to have that conversation with those parents because we’ve still got some applications in (Thursday) that still have to be processed.”
Ceglinski said about three-fourths of the students who signed up for the Virtual Academy have already begun taking classes.
Carter said the COVID mitigation plan the board put in place prior to schools opening in August has been effective.
“We’ve been able to remain in-person five days a week, and we’ve seen the number of positive cases and the number of quarantines decrease over the past month,” he said. “It’s still higher than we want, but on the same token, we recognize that this is a public health issue that public schools are trying to navigate through, and we have to use all mitigation efforts that we have in place.
“One of those right now (requiring masks of students, staff and visitors to schools) is a very unpopular one, but with our numbers being as high as they are, we want to do everything we can to keep our students in-person.”
Carter said the recent installation of air purification systems in McCracken County classrooms and the Test to Stay program — approved by the board Thursday night — are other means the district is using to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The board approved a memorandum of agreement with Ethos Laboratories to perform COVID testing on students and staff.
“We still have to work out exactly the logistics of it,” Carter told the board before the approval. “Idealistically, we’ll be able to do it at every building every morning.
“What this program would do is if a student comes into close contact, they have to test negative six consecutive days. It is a rapid test that would allow them to do that. (Students or staff) would have to come in a little early, take the test and wait for the results.”
If the result were positive, the student or staff member would have to go back home and continue to follow quarantine guidelines. If it were negative, the person would be able to go to school.
“Hopefully, that would reduce the number of quarantines,” Carter said. “…Right now, we’re looking at trying to do one person provided by Ethos at every one of our facilities. At a minimum, we would have a testing center in every one of our communities (Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland) and one at the high school by itself.”
The Test to Stay program allows those who have been diagnosed with COVID who are near the end of their isolation or quarantine period to be tested outside the school while they are in a car. If they test positive, they can come back to school while following other guidelines. If they test negative, they must return home.
The board also approved a memorandum of agreement with the Kentucky Cabinet for Family Services and the Kentucky Department for Public Health to have the program in place.
In other business, project manager Holly King of Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, who has overseen the construction of the new Lone Oak Middle School building since 2018, told the board she would be moving to another job and introduced Chris Jones as the new project manager.
“The building is much further along than it was when (A&K Construction Executive Vice President) Ricky Tabers gave you a summary of his work (on July 15),” she said. “I’m crossing my fingers, and they are working really hard.
“Neat things are happening this week. The basketball floor is getting finished over the weekend, probably be finished early in the week. Trophy cases are being illuminated, and all the glass shelves are in.”
The target date to have students come to the new school on Bleich Street is Oct. 11, the day after fall break, but transitions could be problematic. It was originally planned for the desks and other school items moved to the new building over the summer.
Also, the former Lone Oak Middle School building would become the new Lone Oak Intermediate School, and the former intermediate school building would become the new district office. Those transitions may be put off for a while.
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