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Board approves in-person classes slated for Sept. 28

Students in the Harlan County School District will return to in-person instruction after the Harlan County Board of Education voted to allow in-person classes beginning Sept. 28.

Superintendent Brent Roark strongly recommended the board members vote in favor of the reopening, adding many of the district’s principals agreed with the idea of in-person classes beginning again.

Getting back to normal instruction would be split up into three days, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, before eventually shifting to four days toward the end of the school’s nine weeks or trimester and then to five days by late December or early January 2021.

Roark said unlike his initial thoughts of having a rotation of students who can attend certain in-person classes, the instruction would be open to any student wishing to physically return to the classroom setting.

“This is our chance to be back in school, and I don’t want to blow this. We can make it be successful or we can sabotage ourselves,” he said. “The safe-at-school guidelines say the mask has to be worn at all times. Even if they are seated six feet apart, students and staff must wear the mask under safe-at-school guidelines.”

In doing so, Roark said strict “Healthy at School” protocols and procedures are expected to be followed by all students, faculty and staff entering and leaving any school property, noting masks that cover the nose and mouth need to be worn at all times unless a student is eating or drinking, the student is outdoors or has at least six feet of space between themselves and another student.

Discussion was also held regarding preventative measures against COVID-19, regular cleaning and the type of mask required for students, brought up by board members Myra Mosley and John Wes Sheffield, respectively.

Roark said masks will be available at schools for each student and cloth masks are recommended. He noted if personal masks are worn, they must meet dress code and depict no vulgar or political messages.

The superintendent also said he wants to work with school principals to ensure breaks are given to allow students to be outside when they return to in-person instruction. He said breaks from the masks are vital to the students.

“Our principals have done an unbelievable job. There is no business or industry in this nation that could have one delivery model like we had and change it as fast as our principals and staff accomplished with our transition. We are a service provider. We work for the parents, the families. We provide a service,” Roark said. “For our entire careers we provided service under one model, which was the ‘traditional kids come to school and we deliver instruction to them.’ We didn’t do anything else. In a matter of a couple weeks, from Aug. 10-31, we completely retooled how we did business.”

Further discussion led to a unanimous decision to accept the proposed plan to begin in-person classes on Sept. 28.

Prepackaged meals will also continue for students remaining on virtual classes. Those attending in-person classes will receive hot meals at school, according to Roark.

Meals will be served to students in their classrooms as part of the safe-at-school guidelines.

For more information on meals, contact Food Service Director Jack Miniard at 606-573-4330.

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