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Hybrid school plan aims to provide options for students and parents

At a time when there is a lot of uncertainty and concern about the reopening of schools, the Boyle County Board of Education approved the implementation of a hybrid plan that will provide students and parents with options moving forward when it comes to education, either through in-person instruction or virtual instruction.

Boyle County Superintendent Mike LaFavers introduced the Synchronous Hybrid plan to members of the board Tuesday night. The term, coined by the Kentucky Department of Education, involves the physical school with a virtual school option. 

“I think the reason they refer to it with synchronous is because the two will sync up in terms of, if a student is in the virtual school but comes to the physical school, the pacing, the assessments, and the content are all synchronized to the best extent possible,” LaFavers said. 

Parents are asked to decide which of the two options they want for their child by July 24. 

 

The Physical School Option

The plan involves schools opening and closing 30 minutes prior to or after the bell. 

With this plan, the arrival window for students at Perryville and Junction City Elementary will be from 7:20 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. At Woodlawn Elementary and Boyle County High School, it will be from 7:35 a.m. to 8:05 a.m. At Boyle County Middle School, the arrival window would be from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. 

Dismissal times will be at 2:45 p.m. for Junction City and Perryville, 3 p.m. for Boyle County Middle School, 3:05 p.m. for Woodlawn, and 3:10 p.m. for Boyle County High School. 

Upon arrival, students will be asked to go straight to their classrooms and avoid congregating in areas such as a lobby, cafeteria or gymnasium. 

Social distancing will be enforced in the schools and masks will be worn by students (in second grade and older) and staff when social distancing cannot be achieved. 

Masks will be provided free of charge to students and staff who do not have one. 

LaFavers said the school district will continue to provide transportation to students that need it, but the school district is encouraging everyone who can to pick up their children and drop them off. 

“It’s going to be difficult to put the number of students on a bus that we have in the past,” LaFavers said. 

Social distancing guidelines will be in place on a school bus like other school environments, LaFavers said, and students as well as staff will be required to wear a mask while on a bus. 

There have been a lot of questions about quarantines, LaFavers said, and noted that the school district will work closely with the Boyle County Health Department in those situations. 

Even with this option, LaFavers said parents should be ready for a shelter-in-place order at any given time via the governor’s office, the Boyle County Health Department or through the district. In such an event, the district would utilize Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) or virtual instruction for all students.

 

The Virtual School Option

Parents and students will also have a virtual school option if they’re not comfortable with returning to the physical classroom. 

LaFavers said this option goes much further than NTI. 

“We want this to feel like the physical school building to the greatest extent possible,” LaFavers said. “We want this to mirror the physical school building in terms of time, curriculum, assessments, and teacher interaction. We don’t want the burden to feel like it is on the parent. We want it to really feel like you’re at school.” 

LaFavers told the board that students will be provided with either an iPad or Chromebook to use for the virtual learning environment, and students who have insufficient or no internet access can contact the district for assistance. 

The virtual school option will be broken up into two semesters and parents/students will have the option to choose if they want to be involved in it for the first semester, the second semester, both, or neither. 

Requests to transfer to/from the virtual school can be made at any time, however, but those requests will have to be approved by an administrator if made outside of the commitment date. 

Students enrolling in the virtual school will be asked to sign a contract that guarantees a commitment to “complete assignments, attend daily virtual lessons, and participate in virtual school activities.” 

The schedule will mirror the start/end times of the physical school and attendance as well as participation will be monitored daily. 

Food service will also be provided for virtual school students, LaFavers said, and pickup locations will be announced in different areas of the community. 

 

The issue of internet access

Board member Ruth Ann Elliott raised the concern of lack of internet access in parts of Boyle County, particularly in the Forkland community and the western part of the county. 

“There’s some people that cannot receive broadband,” Elliott said. “So are you telling me that there is not going to be any problem for those students being able to access whatever they need to with chromebooks or internet?” 

LaFavers said he believes the majority of students will physically be in school this year, but said the possibility exists that there will be students in areas where there is a lack of broadband access who would prefer the virtual school option. 

“We’re hoping that the hotspots will address that issue, but if it doesn’t, then we have to start thinking creatively of what we can do for these students,” LaFavers said. 

One option is the creation of a “community hotspot” that would be able to draw a stronger internet connection. Other options could be looked at, LaFavers said, but the last resort would be NTI packets. 

“We don’t want to go there,” LaFavers said. “Although NTI has been good for us, we want to go toward live, daily instruction that mirrors the regular school environment.” 

Taylor added that last spring, the district was able to distribute 100 or more hotspots to families within the district and school staff were able to work with families on getting those set up for maximum efficiency. 

“We’ll work with those families and come up with the best plan that suits them,” Taylor said. “It’s not as ideal as it would be if it was in the home but there are some things we just can’t fix unfortunately. For the most part, I think it was very well-received this past spring and we were able to service many families that didn’t have access.” 

 

Athletics

Athletics has been a topic of interest as of late, and LaFavers said after talking with Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett, the plan as of now is to proceed with fall sports and athletic games will be able to have fans at 50 percent of the venue’s normal capacity. 

Families will be asked to sit together at these events and avoid sitting with other families. Seating will be established in zones that maintain social distancing. 

“Right now, we can only have 50 people at a venue but we believe by the time school starts, we’ll be able to reach that 50 percent capacity mark,” LaFavers said. “If we aren’t, we will obviously adjust but that’s Julian Tackett’s goal, that’s our goal, and that’s the KHSAA goal.” 

Enrollment in the virtual school will not affect a student’s ability to be involved in athletics or extracurricular activities. 

 

The district will also possibly be hiring 15 “temporary health and safety assistants” whose responsibilities will include temperature checks, monitoring buses and other common areas to ensure proper social distancing and mask-wearing is taking place, packaging and delivering food service items to students in classrooms or other areas, and disinfecting desks and other surfaces, along with other COVID-related tasks as assigned. 

These individuals, according to Human Resources Director Carla Carr, will only provide COVID-related services, which are mostly reimbursable, she said. The district would only pay 13 cents per dollar for these employees and the rest would be reimbursed through FEMA. 

Carr said that these employees would be used until December, as of now, but that could change depending on changes with the virus.