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Classes will end in May no matter what, schools say

Jenkins Independent, Letcher County schools still plan to halt classes in May

With kids home and doing nontraditional instruction days via the Internet, it might seem like school is already out for summer.

But, in reality classes won’t end until mid-May, with or without the continued stay-at-home advisory issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Letcher County Schools Superintendent Denise Yonts and Jenkins Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Genton both said their districts will, under the new rules approved for the coronavirus outbreak, will have enough instructional hours to finish the year just about on time.

“For us, it’s May 18 or 19,” Yonts said. “We’ll finish both at the same time — hours and days — so it’s about when we would have finished anyway.”

Jenkins is expected to be done about 10 days earlier. Genton said the date right now will be somewhere between May 8 and 12.

Students had been getting daily assignments from school via the Internet, but with the changes in the schedule, that was only a stopgap measure until districts knew how long schools will be closed. Schools must, under state law, offer students at least 170 days and 1,062 instructional hours per school year.

The governor last week pushed the end date for school closures to at least May 1, but some educators don’t expect the schools to reopen this school year. That has forced schools to rethink the way they deliver classes. Letcher County Schools is planning to switch to live on video instruction from teachers, with longer, more involved assignments.

“We’re looking at a whole week (of work given in one day), and whether a child is progressing and communicating with their teacher,” said Yonts.

Genton said there is no data to tell officials whether students are performing at grade level. The district will hold around three weeks of review next fall to see if students absorbed the classes they took this year online.

“NTI was never meant to deliver new content. It was meant to review things and give kids something on what were essentially snow days,” Genton said.

Meanwhile, students stuck at home are still getting school meals, if they want them. Genton said the district served 320 to 350 students every day last week, and the district enrollment is just 400. He said he’s most worried about the possibility the state will order delivery of food stopped. If that happens, Genton expects the number of students getting free lunches to drop 80 percent.

**In an effort to stave off any possible order to stop feeding deliveries, Genton has reduced the school lunch deliveries to two days a week. He said three days of meals were delivered on Tuesday, and four will be delivered on Friday.

Letcher County Schools have already stopped home delivery. Students can pick up meals from Martha Jane Potter Elementary, Cowan Elementary, Letcher Elementary, Arlie Boggs Elementary, and West Whitesburg Elementary from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The district served about 600 students each day, Monday and Tuesday, Yonts said.

The change was made for the safety of the bus drivers delivering food around the county.

In Fayette County, 17 employees in a single school bus garage have tested positive for the virus.

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