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County school officials still not sure when (or if) 2020-21 term will begin

Schools to open?

Letcher County Schools haven’t yet decided how or if schools will reopen next year due to COVID-19, but the current plan would place students on a schedule similar to that used by colleges, and also allow for online classes similar to what was done this spring.

Superintendent Denise Yonts said information from the state Department of Education is changing almost daily, and the plan the district is working on now could be completely different by August.

“We don’t have anything set in stone,” she said.

She said the board is currently looking at grouping students so some attend school on Mondays and Wednesday and others attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Teachers would use Fridays to work on the online offerings.

She said current guidelines are calling for reducing bus capacity and class size by half, requiring social distancing and other measures.

“The issue that we have right now is all students have to wear a mask,” Yonts said.

She said the district is looking at supplying every student with a cloth mask that can be taken home and washed, and keeping paper medical-type masks on hand at the schools as backups if a child loses his or her mask, or it is damaged while at school.

The discussions are taking place as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the state and nation. Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledge on Monday that the increased cases were not merely a result of increased testing, but said the state will continue to stick with its plan to reopen the economy because the rate of increase “still indicates we can do so, and can do so safely.”

There were 245 new cases of the viral disease reported in the state on Tuesday, bringing the total in Kentucky to 11,708. Two thousand-three hundred and eighty-six Kentuckians have been hospitalized with coronavirus, and 525 are still in the hospital. Nine hundred and sixty-six have required treatment in intensive care, and 75 are currently in ICU. Five more Kentuckians died Tuesday from the disease, bringing the total deaths in the state to 477. A total of 3,365 have recovered.

The capacity of businesses that had been cut to 33 percent will be increased to 50 percent one month from their initial reopening. And, while the Kentucky State Fair will be held, it will not be allowed in the area where a field hospital has been set up. While that hospital has yet to be used, Beshear said there are surges happening in other states, and he does not want to take the hospital down until the state is past the crisis.

Beshear said the virus is everywhere in the state and social distancing practices should continue to be followed.

Numbers in Letcher County have not changed. The Kentucky River District Health Department says four people have tested positive here, with one of those as “probable.” The state has now removed the probable case from its statistics, leaving Letcher County with three cases, all of which have recovered.

Other counties in the area and the number of cases are: Pike – 38, Harlan – 8, Perry – 22, Knott – 4, Floyd 17, Pike – 38, Wise County, Va. – 27, Norton, Va. – 2.

(Norton, Va., is an independent city and is not part of Wise County, even though it is surrounded by Wise County.)

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