Fayette schools open week of Aug. 24, input sought on how

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FAYETTE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fayette County Public Schools is looking at welcoming students back to school the week of August 24 with a new model of on-campus, face-to-face instruction, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk announced Wednesday.

“This is later than our school district normally starts, but this change allows us to take advantage of the flexibility afforded in state law to have a shorter school year, which could prove crucial if intermittent closures are required,” Caulk said.

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Kentucky requires schools to provide a minimum of 1,062 instructional hours during a school year of no fewer than 170 days. Under a 2017 law aimed at supporting tourism in the state by starting the school year later, the General Assembly allows districts that begin the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 to have fewer than 170 school days as long as they meet the instructional hour requirement.

A task force of students, families, teachers, health officials, principals and district leaders has been working on a reopening plan for Fayette County Public Schools since April.

The group has examined the pros and cons of face-to-face in person instruction, distance or virtual learning, and a blend of both approaches.

While everyone is anxious to make specific plans for the 2020-2021 school year, Caulk said, safety has to be the primary consideration.

“With each passing day, it seems the only thing we can be certain of is that the situation we face with the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to evolve as scientists learn more about the virus, public health officials revise their guidance, and cases rise or decline not only in Fayette County, but across Kentucky, the nation and the world,” he said. “The uncertainty and disruption of in person learning since mid-March has been and continues to be a challenge for all of us. I am concerned not only about the instructional time we have already lost with our students, but also about their social and emotional well-being and the toll the pandemic has taken on our families.”

At this time, he said, the state’s second largest school district is considering several possible configurations when it does reopen.

Each reopening scenario involves considerations for academic instruction, supplies and materials, student support, family engagement, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, facilities, transportation, food service, cleaning, health and screening protocols, human resources, and communications.

Wednesday,launched a survey asking families to weigh in on the possible instructional models and share their thoughts about sending their child back to school.

“Those voices will be critical in making decisions that work best for Fayette County,” Caulk said. “If we have learned anything these past few months, it is just how much families and schools can accomplish together.”

Caulk said the district’s reopening plan will:

  • Prioritize health and safety.
  • Be responsive and respectful of the individual circumstances facing students, families and employees.
  • Maximize the opportunity for in person instruction.
  • Reflect best practices about wearing masks, practicing social distancing, sanitizing hands and surfaces, health screening and temperature checks, and contact tracing.
  • Provide flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances with the pandemic.

Every decision made will be in accordance with requirements from federal, state and local health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kentucky Governor’s Office, Kentucky Department for Public Health and Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

Caulk’s message to the district is included below:

Dear FCPS Families,

Like you, I am anxious to be able to make specific plans for the 2020-2021 school year. With each passing day, it seems the only thing we can be certain of is that the situation we face with the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to evolve as scientists learn more about the virus, public health officials revise their guidance, and cases rise or decline not only in Fayette County, but across Kentucky, the nation and the world.

The uncertainty and disruption of “school as we’d known it” since mid-March has been and continues to be a challenge for all of us. As your servant superintendent, I am concerned not only about the instructional time we have already lost with our students, but also about their social and emotional well-being and the toll the pandemic has taken on our families.

Our district is looking at reopening the week of August 24 with a new model of on-campus, face-to-face instruction. This is later than our school district normally starts, but this change allows us to take advantage of the flexibility afforded in state law to have a shorter school year, which could prove crucial if intermittent closures are required.

In general, school districts in Kentucky are required to have a minimum of 1,062 instructional hours and a school year of no fewer than 170 days. However, under a 2017 law, the General Assembly allows districts that begin the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 to have fewer than 170 school days as long as they meet the instructional hour requirement.

A task force of students, families, teachers, health officials, principals and district leaders has been working on a reopening plan since April. The group has examined the pros and cons of face-to-face in person instruction, distance or virtual learning, and a blend of both approaches. Their work is difficult and detailed because any reopening scenario involves considerations for academic instruction, supplies and materials, student support, family engagement, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, facilities, transportation, food service, cleaning, health and screening protocols, human resources, and communications.

Every decision we make will be in accordance with requirements from federal, state and local health authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kentucky Governor’s Office, Kentucky Department for Public Health and Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

Our goal is to develop a reopening plan that:

  • Prioritizes health and safety.
  • Is responsive and respectful of the individual circumstances facing students, families and employees.
  • Maximizes the opportunity for in person instruction.
  • Reflects best practices about wearing masks, practicing social distancing, sanitizing hands and surfaces, health screening and temperature checks, and contact tracing.
  • Provides flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances with the pandemic.

On July 1, we will launch a survey asking for your input about the 2020-2021 school year, including your thoughts about sending your child back to school and your opinions on possible instructional models. It will be available in other languages as those translations are complete. Click here to take the survey.

The questions should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Since your preferences may be different for each of your children, we are asking families to take the survey once for each child you will have enrolled in Fayette County Public Schools during the 2020-2021 school year. The deadline for completing the survey will be midnight on July 12.

Your voices will be critical to helping us make decisions that work best for Fayette County. If we have learned anything these past few months, it is just how much families and schools can accomplish together. Thank you for all you have already done, and all you will do in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Your Partner,
Manny Caulk
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent