Russell County Schools planning to return to classroom no earlier than Jan 19

The Russell County Board of Education approved a plan that would allow students who choose to return to in-person education to do so no earlier than Jan. 19

The plan, presented by Russell County Schools Superintendent Michael Ford, passed by a 4-1 vote with board member Gerald Murray casting the lone dissenting vote.

Murray cast a no-vote in September about students returning to the classroom, and said he still feels the same, stating that he didn’t think now was the right time for students to return to the classroom with COVID-19 case numbers still high.

This plan provides parents/guardians with the ability to choose whether their child will return to the classroom. Parents/guardians will have the option to keep their child on a fully virtual education plan if they do not feel comfortable with their child returning to school.

Those who do return to school will do so under a hybrid plan very similar to what the school district implemented in September. This plan will be slightly altered though. All students will be in-person only two days per week, depending on the first letter of the student’s last name.

Those who have a last name beginning in A-L will be in-person on Monday and Tuesday. Those who have a last name beginning in M-Z will be in-person on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a day that every student in the district will be virtual as the schools will undergo deep cleaning and more one-on-one instruction will be provided for students who need additional assistance.

While the district initially gave elementary students the ability to be in-person four days per week, the number of students in each classroom made social distancing impossible, which led to the decision to align the elementary schools with the hybrid plan used by the middle and high school.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is recommending that schools do not return to in-person education until Jan. 11, but Ford said he is providing an extra week due to inevitable large gatherings on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This will give the district more time and information to evaluate the spread of COVID-19 within the community as the date to return in-person nears.

Students return from Christmas Break on Jan. 4, so students will have two weeks of fully virtual education before having the opportunity to return to the classroom under the hybrid model.

Ford reiterated that this will be a “fluid situation” moving forward, and praised the work of the school district’s teachers and staff this year.

“We will just have to continue to adjust as numbers go up and down,” Ford said.

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.