West Ky. School Leaders Reflect On First Weeks Of In-Person Learning Amid Pandemic

Sep 15, 2020

Credit Paducah Public Schools

  The large majority of school districts in far western Kentucky have re-opened to in-person classes ahead of Governor Andy Beshear’s recommendation that school districts hold off until September 28, yet regional school and health leaders say the first weeks of in-person classes have gone well despite active COVID-19 cases. 


State data as of Monday shows 44 active cases among students and school district staff in Purchase region school districts. That data shows 1 active case at Paducah Public Schools, and the school district states two students -- a Clark Elementary School student and a Paducah Tilghman High School student -- have tested positive so far. Paducah Public Schools Superintendent Donald Shively said communication with local health officials regarding contact tracing has been key, but the challenge of future school weeks remains. 


“We feel like we’ve been successful in ensuring we’re not transmitting the disease to other students,” said Shively. “With that, we need clear and consistent communication from our families on what’s going on. It’s better to be ‘safer’ than ‘safe,’ would be the lessons we’ve learned so far.” 


Paducah Public Schools started their school year with three virtual days before bringing students who opted for in-person learning back to the classroom. 


Some public health officials from the Purchase region told WKMS either no transmission so far with active cases associated with school districts is suspected to have come from in-person classes or school activities, or that officials were unable to determine where exactly transmission came from. State data from Monday shows Marshall County Schools has three active student cases and four active staff cases. 


“The Marshall County school system has done an excellent job of working through any active cases that they have had and containing and mitigating any further spread,” said Jennifer Brown, Marshall County Health Department Public Health Services Manager. 


State data also shows no cases among sparsely-populated county school districts adjacent to the Mississippi River. Hickman County Schools Superintendent Casey Henderson said he expects a case will eventually reach his school district, but believes students and staff are doing a “great job” in following COVID-19 precautions. 


“What we’re learning is what we need to do in order to be able to manage the day-to-day activities, the students coming into the building and moving back and forth from lunch,” Henderson said. “We’ve had to tweak things along the way, but we expected that somewhat.” 


Henderson said about 75% of the more than 600 students in the district are learning in person. He said his staff has staggered schedules for students coming into the lunchroom and being creative with teaching outdoors. 


Governor Andy Beshear announced Monday a new color-coded system to recommend how school districts should proceed with re-opening based on stats regarding community spread. Several western Kentucky counties where schools have reopened are considered “orange,” meaning school districts should consider moving to remote learning only.