Area districts discuss reopening plans for upcoming school year

·4 min read

Jul. 22—With summer break nearing its end, area school districts are ramping up plans for what they hope will be a "normal" 2021-22 school year.

Last week, Owensboro, Daviess County, and Owensboro Catholic school districts announced in a joint statement that there would be a cohesive approach to school instruction when students return to classrooms next month. This includes a voluntary mask policy for all students and staff across the districts.

The start date for all three districts is Aug. 11.

Aug. 11 is also the start date for McLean County and Ohio County public school districts.

McLean County Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Burrough announced this week that the district would be returning to a "traditional school environment" with health and safety precautions in place. That includes social distancing, encouraging hand washing, an increase of cleaning protocols and limiting large group gatherings.

"Vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask at this time," Burrough said. "Individuals who are unvaccinated or choose to wear a mask, may be allowed to."

Ultimately, Burrough is leaving the decision up to the students' families.

Burrough also said adjustments to the district plan will take place, as needed, and that district officials will be monitoring COVID-19 cases in the area.

All details of the district's reopening plan can be found on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Mclean countypublicschools/.

Ohio County Schools released its re-opening procedures Wednesday, and while superintendent Seth Southard was unavailable for comment, the plan was posted on Facebook.

Per the plan, staff and students who are fully vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask during the school day. It's recommended, but not required, for those who are not vaccinated to wear masks while indoors.

The school district will also allow for a minimum of 3 feet of social distance between students and staff, when possible, and will utilize seating charts in case contact tracing is necessary.

The plan also calls for hand sanitizer stations to be available throughout buildings and for frequent hand washing to be encouraged. COVID-19 cleaning procedures already in place will continue. Visitors to buildings will also be limited.

"At this time, OCS will offer traditional in-person instruction," the plan said. "Any other instructional options must be approved by a medical professional or the superintendent's office. We are looking forward to seeing our staff and students and having a great school year."

Full details on the school district's plan can be found on its Facebook page.

Hancock County and Muhlenberg County school districts aren't starting school until Aug. 23. Both districts have not officially released their re-opening plans.

Robby Asberry, Hancock County Public Schools superintendent, said the district won't be releasing its plan for a few weeks.

"One thing we have learned in the last year-and-a-half is things change quickly," he said. "Right now we are getting preliminary plans together and having those discussions with our board members, and we are going to kind of wait and see."

He said district officials would like for the Hancock students to "get back to as normal as possible," but that is dependent on if the state or the health department issues any mandates or protocols.

Carla Embry, Muhlenberg County Public Schools community relations specialist, said the district is handling its re-opening plan similarly.

District officials are hopeful that starting school so late in August will put Muhlenberg at an advantage.

"A lot of districts around us will be opening before us, and we can follow suit and see what works for them, and how they are doing with masks, etc.," she said.

She also said waiting until later in August will allow district officials to monitor COVID-19 numbers to see if they go up due to students returning to in-person learning. The district is recommending masks, but not requiring them.

In a Facebook post, Embry said the school district "continues to encourage safety precautions with activities taking place throughout the summer on our campuses. The CDC and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, along with Kentucky Public Health, have issued a recommendation for all non-vaccinated staff and students to wear masks in the school setting. The district recognizes that recommendation with the understanding that masks are still optional."

Embry said a more detailed re-opening plan will be available soon.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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