Schools go online ahead of governor’s recommendation
By Drew Bergman
On Monday Governor Andy Beshear recommended that schools not open to in-person instruction until at least September 28, altering the plans of many Kentucky school districts. In Russell County, Superintendent Michael Ford and the Russell County School Board had already made the decision to begin the school year online until the week after Fall Break–in October.
“I didn’t want to say, ‘Let’s see how it is in a week, or let’s see how it is in two weeks,’ because then parents can’t plan and teachers can’t plan,” Superintendent Michael Ford said after the meeting.
The start date for Russell County Schools will remain the same, meaning that for at least for the first six weeks of the school year classes will be online and the first potential day that students would be in classrooms would be October 12, two weeks past the governor’s recommendation.
“All board members voted in favor, our board chairman Mrs. [Sheila] Wicker was not there [for personal reasons], Mr. Kazsuck chaired the meeting.”
The board heard from Dr. Rick Miles, who spoke favor of postponing in-person instruction, as well as representatives from the health department who were also in favor of postponing in-person classes.
Three parents did speak at the meeting, one of whom was opposed to the recommendation, one was supportive, and one who was simply in need of more information about the district’s plans.
As of right now, the 3,000 Chromebooks (which RCS ordered in June) have not arrived. With schools across the Commonwealth and across the nation either embracing distance learning or being forced into it by outbreaks at their schools, the demand for the devices has never been higher.
“Our vendor told us that Hewlett Packer [the company building the Chromebooks] is now producing 12,000,000 units a month where they were [producing] 3,000,000. They are still giving us an August ship date, but I don’t know when.”
Without the Chromebooks, the start of online school might also be delayed, however the vendor is still guaranteeing the devices will arrive on time for the beginning of the school year.
“We are also continuing to work with DuoCounty Broadband and Bluegrass Cellular to provide internet service for some of our families. DuoBroadband is also going to be offering a discount.” The schools are still waiting to hear back from the parents of around 800 students regarding their access to internet.
Beyond those avenues for access, school parking lots will also have open WiFi and several area churches have already reached out to let the schools know that they would be happy to allow Russell County Students to use their WiFi.
“Before I even made the recommendation and asked for the special called board meeting, I spoke to local physicians, including Dr. Miles, and I also consulted with the health department they all recommended we start virtually,” Superintendent Ford said.
When the Chromebooks do arrive, Russell County Schools will organize a drive through at their schools for parents to pick up their children’s devices and other supplies. Children in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade will be working on iPads.
“We’ll have paper for kids, we’ll have the composition notebooks,” Superintendent Ford said. “Even if we had school in person, I was not asking parents to purchase school supplies. We were going to take that burden off our families this year. We will have all those basic school supplies for them.”
Likewise, student meals will be once again provided by the schools in a similar manner to this past spring when students were home.