Staffing issues caused by pandemic-related quarantines have forced Jenkins Independent Schools to temporarily move to virtual instruction.
The school district this week began a temporary, two-week virtual instruction period during which all the district’s students are participating. Jenkins Superintendent Damian Johnson said absences related to COVID-19 by several staff members throughout the district made the temporary move to virtual instruction necessary.
“We are at bare minimum at the point to where we are having a hard time finding all the (substitute teachers) we need to cover the need,” Johnson said.
As part of the temporary move to virtual instruction, all of the district’s students are taking classes at home through Google Classroom instructional sessions taught by their respective teachers. The students follow class schedules similar to their typical school day and with their normal teachers. Google Chromebooks have been distributed to all students, Johnson said, along with paper packets for primary school students.
Students are scheduled to return to in-person instruction on October 11.
Johnson said the staff absences include not only certified employees, but also classified employees, including those in school foodservice and transportation. He said the district has had difficulty finding enough substitute teachers to fill its current need, but absences in foodservice and transportation, among other departments, have been near impossible to fill. He said that at one point, nearly half of the district’s food service personnel were under quarantine.
“ We have no substitute cooks, which makes it tough,” he said. “Substitute bus drivers are tough, and we’ve got a few substitute teachers, but now enough. Just because they’re on the list doesn’t mean they can do it that day.”
Johnson said the school district has 20 remote instruction days it can use to deal with issues like COVID 19. He said the time is right to use some of those days to “take a little break” and “get through this.”
“I’m against going to virtual instruction unless it gets to the point to where it’s necessary, and it was necessary at this time,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the student attendance rate for the current school year stands at about 85 percent, which he characterized as “decent, but not what we need.”
With some funding sources based upon attendance, schools which experience attendance rates of less than 80 percent for a given day typically lose money for that day. Johnson said Jenkins and other Kentucky school district may be able to use pre-COVID-19 attendance data for its attendance-based funding mechanism.
Johnson also said the school district is preparing to establish an all-virtual instruction option for students wishing to leave the classroom. The new virtual option will use the Edginuity curriculum platform already being utilized by several neighboring school districts.
Jenkins Instructional Supervisor and Digital Learning Coach Brian Bentley said training is already underway for the implementation of the Edginuity platform.