Of the 10,000 students in Paducah and McCracken County public schools, about 6,200 will be returning to the classroom later this month for in-person instruction.
That is based on the responses to surveys returned to the district offices from parents giving their preferences for their children’s style of instruction: in-school or at-home.
McCracken County Superintendent Steve Carter and Paducah Superintendent Donald Shively agreed that the goal was to get as many students in school as possible in as safe a manner as possible.
Carter said that all of the McCracken County surveys have not been returned, but thus far, 70 to 75% of families — about 4,900 to 5,250 students — wanted to have their children attend schools, at least at the start of the school year.
Shively also said that all of his district’s parents have not yet returned their surveys, but thus far, 49% of the 75% of surveys returned will have their children physically attend school, representing about 1,190 students.
McCracken County and Paducah schools will require students, faculty and staff to wear masks where social distancing of 6 feet or more is not sustainable.
“For students who walk down the hall, they’re going to have to put on a mask because there’s a chance that their social distancing will be compromised at some point,” Carter said.
Those McCracken County students who have chosen to attend classes at school will attend all five days a week. Those who are taking at-home instruction will find that it will be different from the non-traditional instruction (NTI) that they received at the end of the last school year.
“We’re going to use Google Classroom,” Carter said. “Some of our schools have some other programs that they might use, like ClassDojo. We’ve also purchased some online curriculums and programs, like Edgenuity. That will be very specific for grades 6 through 12.
“We’ve made sure that the online classes for our high school students also meet the clearinghouse requirements. For our students who are planning on going to college, just because something’s online does not necessarily mean it will be recognized for college admission.”
Shively was optimistic about the way school will start for the Paducah students.
“It looks very doable as far as being able to socially distance when you’re sitting still,” he said. “If you want to take a break from wearing a mask, you would be able to do that. That’s been our goal, from being realistic about asking a child to wear a mask 400 minutes a day. That can be tough, but it’s promising.”
In the Paducah district, those students going to class at school will be given one day a week of at-home instruction. That will help schools with social distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Those taking instruction at home — like those in McCracken County schools — will have instruction online from their teachers.
“That’s not — and I want to emphasize ‘that’s not’ — a paper packet,” Shively said at the Paducah school board meeting July 20. “That’s online delivery of instruction. It’s more than likely going to be videoed in most cases for you to be able to watch and use at home.”
When teachers report to work this month — Aug. 6 for McCracken County and Aug. 10 for Paducah schools — the preparation for the coming school year will be much different, as will the first day for students, which is Aug. 24 for McCracken County and Aug. 26 for Paducah.
“This will be a different start than any they’ve ever had,” Carter said. “We’re in the process of balancing in-person instruction as well as virtual instruction. That’s a very daunting task, trying to balance both, and teachers are coming up with ways that we can see our students, even if it is virtual.
“Our students knew their teachers when they had to go to NTI at the end of the last school year. When you start a new school year, you may or may not know who your teacher is.”
Shively said the Paducah district’s teachers are already at work, using flexible professional development to help them prepare for a school opening like no other.
“Ultimately, we have our professional development plans approved by each site-based council,” he said. “So, those are somewhat unique to each school. The Leader in Me training is going on at the middle school and the three elementary schools as we continue to build that up.
“We start (professional development) on the 10th and we have eight days in there for teachers to get in front of videotaping lessons, student-teaching strategies online and we’re working on how to use the module of the Team app.”
St. Mary School System Director Eleanor Spry said that the system’s schools will be able to have every student have in-school instruction, as there is ample room to practice social distancing.
“We can socially distance; we’re excited about that,” she said. “We can socially distance, wear masks and have all of the kids here. That’s not an issue at all.
“The issue is making sure that we do what the bishop wants us to do for grace and justice for our kids, and we’re trying to do what’s right for families who have kids at home who have been out of school for five months who need to be back in. We want to get face-to-face instruction in and in-person instruction in for as long as we can do it.”
Spry said that an opening date for students had not yet been chosen.
“We’re looking at the 24th,” she said. “Right now, that’s our set date, since we went with the recommendation.
“There were three of 17 (Owensboro) diocese schools that were starting much earlier, so the diocese asked us to honor the request to wait to start school.”