ESTILL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Every school district has different challenges to address as more students are learning remotely than ever before.
All schools have adjusted their start date, with most starting the week of August 24.
The earliest back-to-school date we found was in August 17, which is when Laurel County students begin school.
Anderson County Schools will wait until September 8 to resume classes. The superintendent says a recent spike in cases within the community contributed to that decision. She also says that gives teachers and parents more time to prepare for the year.
In our region, many districts did opt for 100% remote learning to start the school year. Those include Fayette County, Boyle County, Danville, Jessamine County, Franklin County, Clark County, Bourbon County, and Robertson County.
Other districts are giving families the choice to return to school in-person or remotely. Those include: Scott County, Paris Independent, Laurel County, Anderson County, Madison County, and Estill County.
Estill County presented three options to families on how to start the school year: in-person hybrid model, remote learning online, or remote learning with pencil and packets.
School starts on August 24, so teachers are back inside the halls of Estill Springs Elementary to prepare their classrooms.
"I think the kids will really enjoy that theme for the school year," Estill Springs Elementary Principal Jessica Mullins said.
Mullins says learning is important, but her priority is to make sure students know they're loved.
"Know what it means to be safe and to be surrounded by people who support you and love you. The rest falls into place," said Mullins.
But this year, less is falling into place than usual.
With the virus still spreading in Kentucky last month, Estill County pushed back the start of the school year and asked families to decide what back-to-school option was best for their children.
The majority of parents did choose the in-person model, which means two days of in-class instruction either on Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday. Wednesday will be an NTI day for students, planning day for teachers, and cleaning day at the school.
This ensures there will be fewer students inside the building at a time to allow for spacing.
"We have minimized the number of desks in our room. We have minimized the amount of furniture in our room," said Mullins.
Things will also look different outside of the classroom.
The cafeteria and playground will stay closed to start the school year. Recess and PE will have less shared equipment. The water fountains are also shut off.
There's also a quarantine area next to the nurse's station if a student's has a high temperature during the daily screening.
As for the students going 100% remote, Mullins says the district is working to ensure as many kids have tablets or Chromebooks as possible. But some families in the county still don't have adequate access to high-speed internet for online learning.
"You know, the big question to ask is, can you run a Youtube video without it skipping or stopping," said Mullins. "And for so many of our families, that's just not an option."
That's why families will have an option to pick up packets so students can keep up. There will be teachers designated specifically for remote learners. Mullins says she will break down any barriers to make sure students feel a part of the Estill Springs family.
"The amount of home visits we do will increase this year. The students that are not in the building, I need to see their face. I need to see that things are going okay, and I think it's important that they see us," said Mullins.
Mullins says it's more important than ever to maintain a positive attitude, uplift the students, but also to look out for the parents and fellow educators.