LEXINGTON, Ky.(LEX 18) — Dr. Demetrus Liggins experienced his first day of “school” about three weeks before the students in his district will get their first day.
“I am extremely excited for my first day with the Fayette County Public Schools,” the new superintendent told a group of reporters on Monday morning.
Hired during the spring to replace the late Emmanuel Caulk, Liggins’s day-one schedule was full and it included a session with members of the media, visits with Ignite program summer school students and teachers, and it’ll culminate with his first school board meeting Monday night. His talk with reporters was dominated by COVID-19, the Delta Variant, and the potential for a repeat of health safety guidelines in school, including face coverings.
“I’m going to meet with the core team tomorrow and make absolutely sure that we listen and ultimately decide what’s best for having school,” Dr. Liggins said.
Liggins, like most educators, is a proponent of in-person instruction, and he’s aware of the many disadvantages created by virtual learning during the last school year. His district in Texas, where he previously worked as superintendent, offered in-person and virtual learning for the entire year, never choosing to ditch the in-person part at any point during the year.
“It was a struggle as it was for every district in every state,” he said of the last school year.
“I just want to make sure this year we can put systems into place to make sure students continue to be in person. I think students suffered tremendously last year with their learning,” Dr. Liggins added.
Liggins didn’t put a timetable in place for making a decision on a mask-wearing policy, saying only that the team will make a decision with enough time to allow the district’s families to adjust.
“My personal beliefs aside, I have to listen to the health professionals,” he said.
Dr. Liggins said he doesn’t envision a vaccine mandate being put in place by the district, at least not when they are still in the emergency-use-authorization phase. Beyond that, he referenced the many vaccine mandates that are in place to combat contagious diseases such as, measles and varicella (chickenpox).
But a vaccine mandate for COVID-19 is a conversation for another time.
After all, today was just his first day and already he’s got some major decisions looming, specifically regarding health protocols for the coming school year.
“Once all of the brains are at the table I want to get (the decisions) out as soon as possible. As soon as we have enough solid information to make a decision that makes sense, and that is going to support in-person instruction,” he said.