On Monday, Jan. 4, both the Hazard Independent School District and the Perry County School District returned to virtual instruction with plans to return to in-person instruction next week. Superintendents with both districts said they are working closely with healthcare officials to ensure the safety of students, staff and the community at large.

Hazard students remained in virtual instruction for the week of Jan. 4-8. Officials with the Hazard Independent school district hosted a Facebook Live event on Jan. 4 to review protocols and guidelines.

“I know that this virus has put a strain on families and the community, but we always step up to the challenge and do our best for our children,” said Hazard Independent Superintendent Sondra Combs. “Please continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols so that we may return to some type of normalcy. As always, safety of our students and staff are our top priority.”

Combs said after consulting with KDE and the Department of Local Health, the Hazard Independent district will be resuming their hybrid system of in-person and virtual instruction options on Jan. 11.

“This means those families that wish to send their students for in-person instruction will have that option, and those that wish to remain virtual will also have that option,” said Combs. “The in-person option will be every day Monday through Friday. The buses will run the same routes we were using before.”

“As a district, offering high quality instruction is very important, along with the social and emotional health of our students,” said Combs.

Principals of Hazard Independent Schools also spoke during the meeting and reminded community members of the protocols that will need to be followed. Temperature checks and masks are still required in the every facility, social distancing will be practiced and enforced and extra cleaning precautions will be utilized said school officials. Other measures, such as designated drop off and pick up locations based on grade level, as well as a set meal location and schedule, will be taken, said officials.

“It went really well for us the first semester and basically we’re doing the same thing (plan),” said Hazard High School Principal Donald “Happy” Mobelini. “We’ve taken every precaution known to man.”

“Our approach that we used back in Sept. will be the same approach we use going forward,” agreed Hazard Middle School Principal Kevin Combs. “It is safe for your kids to come to school,” said Dan Howard, principal of Roy G. Eversole Elementary. “All of our buildings are very clean.”

In addition to those measures, school officials have also placed restrictions on sports. The sports, said Mobelini, will continue, but will look different. Tickets will not be available for sale for away games, however each player will be given a select number of tickets for their family or friends. Limited numbers of tickets will be available for sell for home games.

Perry County Schools also returned to virtual/NTI instruction on Jan. 4. Perry County Superintendent Jonathan Jett said the district plans to reopen schools to in-person instruction on Jan. 12.

“Over the past several days I have had conversations with the local health department, district leadership and school principals about reopening to in-person learning,” said Jett. “Students will also have the option to stay on NTI/virtual learning.”

In an effort to ensure equity in instruction, Jett said, all teachers will be asked to set up a Google Meet for students to join with the teacher and in-person students. These meets should be recorded so students can review them at a later time if needed, he said.

“Once we get in-person students back in we’re going to ask our virtual students to just log onto a Google Meet with their teacher and just follow along with the general instructions that their teacher (is giving) that the in-person students are getting,” said Jett. “It’s difficult for the teachers to try to prepare for both, it’s kind of asking a lot of them.”

Jett said several measures from the last session of school are being practiced again this semester. “We will use the same mitigation strategies as before which include masks worn at all times, practice social distancing of six feet and  thorough hand washing with soap and water and hand sanitizer,” said Jett. “We also have plexiglass dividers that can be used as another layer of protection,” he said.

All in-person students will have temperature checks completed before entering the building, said Jett. Once in the building, he said, all students will receive a grab-and-go breakfast to take with them to their assigned room or area. Staff will complete the brief health screens and do temperature checks as well, and all high touch surfaces will be disinfected routinely throughout the day, said Jett.

Students in grades pre-school through eighth grade will stay in their assigned room/area for the entire day with the exception of two 15 minute breaks (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and restroom breaks, said Jett. Additional restroom breaks will be provided throughout the day for hand-washing. Perry Central and Buckhorn High Schools will have a specific schedule for class changes that they will share through email and social media and lunches will be provided in the classrooms to all students, he said.

“It is critical that we keep seating charts for the buses and classrooms to assist with contact tracing when we have positive cases,” said Jett. “We are all extremely excited to be able to bring our students back for in person learning. It is important that we follow the mitigation strategies in order to give us the best chance of staying open to in-person instruction long term.”

Representatives from both school districts said there will not be any snow days this year. In the event of snow and the schools can’t have students in-person, that will be a virtual/NTI day for all teachers and students, said school officials.

If anyone has any questions, they are encouraged to contact their child’s school or teacher.