During the Oct. 20 Perry County School Board of Education meeting, board members discussed several items on the agenda. Among the announcements made, board members spoke about the recent increase of COVID-19 cases in the area and plans to help decrease the cases.
“On Oct. 8, we were 7.2 on the color coded map, which resulted in us being a yellow county. In just 11 days, it was 36.6 earlier today (Oct. 20) but it went to 41.0 today (Oct. 20). We're on the wrong trajectory, we really are,” said Superintendent Jonathan Jett. “We've got to put some things in place that are not real comfortable immediately.”
Jett said there are several measures that will be implemented within the district soon.
“We've tried different things since March of last (school) year trying to make sure we can get consistent with our kids and make sure we're providing the best instruction that we can to as many students as we can,” said Jett. “We're going to have to rethink what we're doing, how we're trying to do two separate things for the students at home and the students that are in-person. We have to teach the kids that are in-person, they need to be talked to, they need direct instruction.”
Going forward, Jett said, once the district returns to in-person instruction, a new system will be utilized.
“What we're going to do moving forward, we're going to set up a webcam that will just be on the teacher and the students that are home will set up a Google meet that will start at 8 a.m. and will run throughout the day for those kids who log on from home,” said Jett. The webcam, he said, won't move around or be on any other students and will solely focus on the teacher.
“I understand that not everybody's parents are home then, that's why we're going to record these Google meets so that parents and students can go back and watch them later in the evening if they need to or if they need to review,” he said.
This measure, said Jett, will help ease the workload currently on teachers and parents.
“We just can't continue to expect out teachers to do double duty. The Monday thing, it helped some, but not to the extent that it needed to, so we will keep that over the next few weeks but eventually we will phase away from that,” said Jett. “Once we get in-person, we will go five days and teachers will use their regular planning.”
In addition to the academic changes, Jett said some changes will be implemented in the sports as well.
“I think until we get back in orange, we need to continue NTI and we need to pause on any extracurricular activities that are not at the high school level and are not post-season or working for post-season,” said Jett. The ongoing sports, he said, will take extra precautions for now until their seasons end. Middle school sports may not start until cases decrease. Additionally, said Jett, when inside sports such as basketball begin, the district may do hold the games without fans depending on the status of the pandemic.
“We've got to do some things to get headed back in the right direction,” said Jett. “I'm not going to make a reckless decision. If a kid is living with a grandparent and that's all the family they got, they take it home to that grandparent and if that person dies that kid will end up in foster care. I know people will say they can catch it at Walmart, they can catch it at church; I'm not running Walmart and I'm not running the church. I'm in charge of the school system and I'm going to do what I think is reasonable and appropriate.”
Currently, Buckhorn has one staff member quarantined; East Perry has one staff member who is positive, four staff quarantined, six students who are positive and 12 students quarantined; Leatherwood has no positive or quarantined staff or students; PCCHS has seven staff who are positive or quarantined and nine students who are positive or quarantined; Robinson has one student who is positive, three quarantined staff and five quarantined students; RW Combs has one quarantined staff; Viper has no positive or quarantined staff or students; West Perry has one staff member who is positive, 11 quarantined staff, five students who are positive and five quarantined students; and there is one quarantined staff member from the Perry County Board of Education Central Office.
Jett said that much of the spread in the schools is because of the district's dynamic.
“The thing that is unique about our district, we had a teacher at one school that tested positive. She had a spouse that worked at another school that had to be quarantined. Her mother was in a district position, so she had to be quarantined. Then we had a teacher at Robinson who tested positive and her husband worked at Viper, that's just the dynamics of our district. A lot of it is family members that work in different capacities for different schools,” said Jett.
The Perry BOE will continue to monitor the cases within the district and will adjust their plans accordingly.