The Pikeville Independent Schools District has released details on what the district’s reopening will look like in the fall, with a planned start date for the district being Aug. 26.

Superintendent David Trimble discussed the district’s reopening plan during the Pikeville Independent Schools Board of Education meeting on July 21 and during a live session on the “Pikeville Independent Schools” Facebook page the next day. Trimble said that district officials and staff have discussed the reopening plan many times over the course of the summer in order to shape it into the right plan for the district’s students and families.

“We’ve worked extremely hard as a collective team to make sure the decisions we make are best for the health and safety and the education of our students, but also for the health and safety of our team members here at Pikeville Independent,” Trimble said.

The district plans to start school in the fall on Aug. 26, making the last day of the school year planned for May 28, 2021, according to the district’s revised calendar.

The families of students in Pikeville Independent Schools will have two options for how they wish to return to classes: in-person instruction or online instruction. On July 28, Trimble said, the district plans to release intent forms to the parents of students in the district in order for them to provide their students’ information and which choice they plan to make in that form. The forms will be open and available until Aug. 5.

Students’ learning options

The first option will be traditional in-person classes, where students will be 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.

“The reason for doing that is to provide you with the opportunity to be able to have your entire family home on the same days, which will also hopefully be able to help with childcare in the home on the days when they’re not in school,” Trimble said. “Maybe if you have older siblings who provide childcare, they will be available to do that as well.”

From Aug. 26 to Sept. 14, 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, Trimble said, are to help students maintain social distancing, which is currently a requirement for districts upon reopening.

Between those dates, Group A will attend in-person class on Aug. 26, Aug. 31, Sept. 2, Sept. 8 and Sept. 10. Group B will attend in-person classes on Aug. 27, Sept. 1, Sept. 3, Sept. 9 and Sept. 11. All students are planned to engage in remote learning on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4.

Trimble explained that 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.

Starting on Sept. 14, all students who choose the in-person option will attend in-person classes at their respective schools for five days a week, regardless of the groups they were in for the previous weeks. On this day, 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.

Trimble said the district is starting with the “yellow” hybrid learning schedule of having students be separated into their two alternating groups, and this decision was made due to Kentucky’s increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. On July 19, Kentucky saw its highest single-day number of reported COVID-19 cases, with 979 new reported cases.

“The reason we have three options is based on the current needs of the time,” Trimble said, referring to the green-yellow-red schedule system. “At the moment we are elevated, the governor has placed greater restrictions on it, public health is asking for some additional masking and, in our community, we’ve had an elevated number of cases. We are very well aware of that, and that has had an impact on our decision and in choosing to be ‘yellow’ at this moment.”

As Trimble explained, the district’s green schedule means that students will attend regular in-person instruction five days a week as “traditional as possible.” If the district goes into its “yellow” schedule, that means that students will switch back into attending in-person classes through their Group A and Group B schedule.

If officials declare that students will receive instruction through its “red” schedule, that means that students will transition to online learning for a period of time, and this schedule depends on the community’s COVID-19 situation or if there is a possible outbreak in a school in the district.

Trimble said that students who plan to take Advanced Placement classes will still have the opportunity to do that, and the same applies for students taking dual credit courses, as long as the classes are still being offered by the dual credit partners working with the district.

“We’re not eliminating your options,” Trimble said. “We’re not creating, for lack of a better term, a cookie-cutter education. We’re going to do what’s in the very best interest for you, the student. That has not changed. Your learning plan has not changed. If you are a student who takes AP courses, you will still have the opportunity to take AP courses. If you’re taking dual credit, as long as that is available to us … we’re gonna be able to work with you on that.”

Trimble also mentioned that the district is looking into how vocational classes will be provided in the fall.

The second option that Pikeville Independent students will have is to receive instruction through online instruction only. According to the district, students will still be able to participate in extracurricular activities if they choose the online option, and meals will still be available for the students through the district’s food service program. He said that the district can provide technology equipment to any student who is in need in order to complete their online coursework.

If a student chooses the online learning option, they will have until Sept. 4 to be able to transition to in-person instruction, but students who choose the in-person instruction option will be allowed to transition to the online learning option at any time.

Trimble said this will apply for the fall semester, and parents wishing to send their student to in-person classes in the spring, instead of continuing the online option, will be able to do that.

“At any one moment, we know that family situations change so if at any one moment, you feel that it is important for you to take your child from in-person to virtual, you will have that option,” Trimble said. “But the one thing that we’re going to have to set in place is that, for planning purposes and for ensuring that we know who’s going to be in our classrooms, we are going to give a week-and-a-half grace period up to Sept. 4. If a student intends to return to school, what we ask is, unless they’ve been quarantined, they return to school on the day they’re assigned.”

Trimble said that a reduction in tuition will not be offered to any parents choosing the online option. He said that this is because students will receive a quality education at Pikeville Independent Schools regardless of whether students choose online or in-person.

“There won’t be a reduction in tuition because there will still be a very solid, positive education for your child,” Trimble said. “All students will be enrolled full-time, and the expectation of us by us and by you is that we provide your students with a positive education. You will have access to some of the very best faculty members that we could ever place with your child, and you will have the opportunity to be educated.”

School lunch, masks and more information

Regarding school lunch for Pikeville Elementary School students, all PES students will receive free breakfast and lunch during the 2020-21 school year. Breakfast will be provided to homeroom classes from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. for students choosing the in-person option. School meals will be served in the cafeteria with social distancing in place, menu options will be provided daily and students may purchase extra items.

During in-person instruction days in the “yellow” schedule, students will receive grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals as they exit school that day in order for them to eat the next day when they will be learning from home. Students in Pikeville High School will also sit six feet apart in the cafeteria during in-person days.

Trimble said there will be times when students will be required to wear a mask, including when they are riding the school bus, when they are moving to a classroom or if social distancing cannot be maintained in a classroom.

However, he said that he and other district officials are trying to keep students distanced and safe in order to allow them time for when they don’t have to wear a mask.

“Keep in mind, if we have a class of 25 students, it may be for that period that students are gonna have to mask,” Trimble said. “One of the things that we’re really looking hard to do is to provide additional resources to allow our students to be unmasked as much as possible. … We need to keep in mind, there are going to be times when students will have to wear a mask during the day. As parents and as community members, encourage your kids on that.”

Trimble noted that although wearing a mask has become a political issue for some people, the school district is not requiring students to wear a mask because of politics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a face mask or facial covering when around other people is one of the primary ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in addition to social distancing (keeping six feet from others) and frequent hand washing.

The Kentucky Department of Education has released recommendations and requirements for school districts to follow as they organize their respective reopening plans. Wearing a mask is one of KDE’s requirements for districts to follow, and they require masks to be worn when students are not able to maintain social distancing during the school day.

“Keep in mind, we’re a school district,” Trimble said. “We’re not a political organization, and public health tells us what we need to follow and we use that guidance, whether you or anybody else agrees with that or not. Encourage your students about the importance of wearing a mask when we ask them to wear a mask.”

Regarding school buses, students will be required to wear masks on the school bus and parents are requested to take their students’ temperatures before sending them to the bus stop. As recommended by KDE, students will have assigned seats on the school bus in order to help with contact tracing.

Temperature checks will also be taken before students enter the school building, and this will apply to students who ride the school bus and who are dropped off. A student that has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be allowed to enter school, and if they develop a high temperature while at school, they will be asked to return home.

Regarding the district’s overall reopening plan, Trimble emphasized that although many decisions for the district’s reopening plan have been made, officials are continuing to shape the finer components of the plan.

“When we were making this plan, we knew there were a lot of difficulties to it, but the one thing that was not difficult was that we knew, no matter what plan we created, the students of Pikeville Independent Schools would receive the very best possible education,” Trimble said.

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