LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Fayette County Public School officials participated in a virtual discussion hosted by the Lexington Forum to talk about COVID-19 and its impact on education on Thursday morning.
Superintendent Manny Caulk, school board chairwoman Stephanie Spires and family and community engagement (FACE) liaison Veda Stewart participated in the Zoom meeting.
During the call, Caulk detailed the factors that led the district to decide to begin the new school year through a non-traditional instruction model.
“This is not ideal,” he said. “We have to do something that is less than ideal in order to maintain the safety, health and welfare of our children.”
Caulk took a moment to address his thoughts while writing a recommendation to the school board on what decision to make.
“I’d rather have a loss of learning than a loss of life. That’s important because we can always recover learning. You can never recover a loss of life,” he said.
Ultimately, Fayette County began the year online on Aug. 26. The school board is reviewing its decision in four to six week intervals.
Stephanie Spires said she, like many others, wants to return students to in-person learning, but the district will not do so without reviewing local health official recommendations and the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate first.
“I don't want to bring your kids back and three days in we're shutting down an entire school and you're having to quarantine for two weeks,” she said.
“We have to pivot based on the scientific data and evidence that's before us,” Caulk said.
The next step beyond virtual learning for FCPS is a hybrid model in which groups of students alternate between distance and in-person learning.
When the officials were asked to explain why a partial return to in-person learning is safer than a full return to in-person learning, Caulk addressed the question.
“The benefit of a hybrid model is that allows you to engage in social distancing,” he said. “You keep those students in cohorts so that if an incident occurs you may just shut down that particular cohort that might be impacted versus an entire class and versus an entire school.”
Before FCPS can transition to this educational model, the spread of COVID-19 needs to be under control in the county.
“What could derail the plan is obviously the current context, we're in. So, what do we need? As governor Beshear continues to implore, we need everyone to wear the mask. We need to do engage in social distancing. We need you to wash your hands.”
Officials were also asked about technological issues during the first week of school and what will happen with hundreds of newly purchased Chromebooks in the post-pandemic world.
“Our teachers are skilled up. They learned how to engage students with virtual learning, how to use technology to make learning more engaging, how to use the various platforms that we have to target specifically where a student is at, and create a personalized learning plan for them. All of that is going to continue as you move forward,” Caulk said.
Caulk also said the district has ordered 500 additional hot spots and expect to have them ready for distribution after Labor Day.