The school districts of Pikeville Independent and Pike County have released more details on their reopening plans, including Pikeville Independent’s recent decision to reopen to in-person learning sooner than initially planned.

Officials with the Pikeville Independent Schools District announced that they decided to reopen the district on a hybrid, in-person schedule from Sept. 28 to Sept. 21, one week earlier. Superintendent David Trimble said that the decision to move the date came after multiples discussions with the Pike County Health Department about county and city cases. On Sept. 11, he said that the decision was made after examining the district’s lack of any current COVID-19 cases and examining the district’s low number of quarantines.

“Sept. 21 was just the ideal time to bring our kids back. We’ve really paid attention to several factors,” Trimble said. “We’ve looked at the positivity rate, which is an important number, but it’s a county-wide number, where we have to look more within our district. We do have a few quarantines, but not a significant amount, and no confirmed cases in our district. From that, it gave us the opportunity to really look at when would be our best start time.”

Pikeville Independent Schools will return to in-person classes on Sept. 21 under their “yellow” hybrid learning schedule, which means that the students will attend in-person classes on alternating days.

The district’s reopening plan for traditional in-person classes will include students being separated into two groups, Group A and Group B. Students will be placed into their respective groups based on their last names, and students in each household will be placed into the same group.

Group A and Group B will alternate the days in which they attend school in-person at either Pikeville Elementary School or Pikeville High School, and the alternating days are to help students maintain social distancing, which is currently a requirement for districts upon reopening.

Group A will attend in-person classes on Sept. 21, Sept. 23, Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 7. Group B will attend in-person classes on Sept. 22, Sept. 24, Sept. 29, Oct. 6 and Oct. 8. All students are planned to engage in remote learning on Sept. 25, Sept. 30 and Oct. 9. The district will announce further decisions for the week of Oct. 12 by the week of Oct. 2 to prepare for childcare, classroom planning and other needs.

When Group A students are attending in-person classes, the students in Group B will still be required to complete online coursework when they are at home on those days. The same will apply when Group B students attend in-person classes and Group A students are working from home. Students in the district have the choice to attend in-person classes or do all-online learning for the fall semester. The district will follow a “green, yellow, red” schedule system, which is color coded to determine how students who choose in-person instruction will receive their instruction in the case of changing situations for COVID-19. “Green” indicates all in-person classes, and “red” indicates that all students will need to do virtual learning at home for a period of time.

Pike County restarting Sept. 28

Pike County Schools’ reopening plan will remain the same starting on Sept. 28, when all students are able to return to in-person classes. Students will have two choices for how they wish to return to school, and those options are to either work solely online or to attend in-person classes.

Regarding the online courses, students will use a program called Canvas, which is a learning management platform that provides online education tools and classes to students. Using Canvas, students will watch their teachers teach a lesson, and they will then complete assignments connected with that lesson.

Pike County Schools Superintendent Reed Adkins said that he anticipates most of the students to return to in-person classes on Sept. 28, based on the district’s second survey and the responses the district has received so far.

“I think you’re gonna see higher numbers of kids wanting to come back to school because all indication that we’re getting is that kids are missing being there,” Adkins said. “They’re missing their teachers. They’re missing that social interaction so we think we’re gonna see a high percentage of kids interested in being in the building.”

For both districts, students who choose to attend in-person classes must follow safety guidelines, which are provided to the districts by the Kentucky Department of Education. Students must wear a mask when on the bus and at school. Pikeville Independent Schools announced that students will not need to wear a mask once they are socially distanced during lunch.

“At times when students are outside and six feet apart, they will be able to remove their masks, and we will work to provide these opportunities throughout the day,” according to Pikeville Independent Schools’ recent reopening plan announcement. “Please emphasize this important requirement to your children, as it is necessary for a sustainable and successful return.”

Both districts began their school years virtually on Aug. 26. However, the districts have operated at 15 percent capacity in their buildings since reopening, allowing for teachers to interact with smaller groups of students in each school at certain times of the day.

Adkins said that many of the district’s schools operate at 15 percent capacity for a morning session and 15 percent capacity for an evening session. Students with special needs, including students with disabilities or students with speech impediments, are also receiving in-person instruction at school in order to receive their necessary therapy services.

Trimble said that operating under 15 percent capacity at the district’s schools has also allowed the district to see how students will handle the safety guidelines.

“Our goal from the very beginning has been to do the very best that we can in a safe manner to have students in-person with our teachers, and that’s one of the ways that we’ve been able to do that throughout this process,” Trimble said, referring to the small groups. “Also, it’s been a way for us to kind of examine how well our students handle the processes that are in place. They’ve done a fantastic job of handling their masking and staying socially distanced in class.”

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