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Jenkins sets August 31 as school start


Opening day for students in the Jenkins School System has been pushed back to August 31 on the recommendation of the state.

At the July meeting of the Jenkins School Board, Superintendent Damian Johnson said that although he had hoped to open the schools on August 19, students won’t begin their year until Monday, August 31, due to safety concerns related to COVID-19. Classes will begin at 7:55 a.m. for the middle high school and at 7:45 a.m. for the elementary school.

Johnson said that teachers will come in on August 17 and will get their planning done. To accommodate the changes to the new year, the system will offer three options to students to alleviate the dangers of COVID-19. With option one, students will not physically attend classes, but take instruction through virtual learning. Option two is a hybrid, where students can attend school on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday and take their other instruction through virtual means, and with option three, the student attends in person four days a week with virtual learning the other day.

Johnson told the board that by starting at a later date, students will start school 15 minutes early, in order to accommodate state requirements to attend classes for 152 days, although the state will credit schools for 170 days. Johnson said there will be breaks in the school calendar, but it will be a tight year overall. The reopening plan also appears on the school system website.

Johnson said schools will ask parents to participate in a survey about the best way to handle the changes, and will pay particular attention to the logistics involved. Classroom size and social distancing will be studied to determine the best way to accommodate students, and lessons will be put on video so they can be sent home if a student doesn’t have access to the Internet. Teachers will be at school every day, and they will also provide lessons on flash drives that plug into USB ports on computers and will be sent home with students.

The system will provide computers to students, and Johnson said the school system will do everything it can to give everybody in the community what they need for their children to participate successfully. Johnson said the system will follow state recommendations and the policies of the Centers for Disease Control.

“We have the tools to do this,” said Johnson.

Johnson said both schools will have an isolation room for quarantining students who display symptoms, but are not able to go home during the school day. They will also provide hand sanitizer. He said everything in buildings will be regularly sanitized as well. The system has 16 gallons of sanitizer on hand and it received 500 masks from the Mennonites. Dr. Ricky Collins of Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital donated an additional 250 masks. There are 22 thermometers on hand as well, and teachers and staff will monitor temperatures. He added that when weather permits, the schools will explore options for outdoor classes, and the schools have an action plan if there is a positive test in either school.

Johnson said dual credit (taking classes at local college and receiving both high school and college credit) classes are still in question, although Southeast Community College in Whitesburg will have all dual credit classes on-line.

Johnson also told the board that work to move the entrance doors and provide a secure entry to the building is now complete. A secretary’s desk will be located on the inside of the doors and visitors will be admitted with identification. The board voted unanimously to approve the District Plan.

The board met new assistant football coach Ben Mc- Cray, a retired state trooper, who said he has a long history with high school and college football. McCray said that player safety will be the top priority for the team. He said that head coach Duane Noble was teaching a class that evening so he would give the board an overview of the program.

McCray coached at Martha Jane Potter Elementary and Fleming-Neon while serving as a state trooper and played at Morehead State University before an injury cut his career short. He said coach Noble played at Fleming-Neon and Union College, and coached at Knox County before coming to Jenkins. He described Noble as a “man of integrity.”

The board also heard from Pam Cornett, practice manager of the University of Kentucky Ronald McDonald Dental Mobile Field Program. Cornett told the board that the program, which started in Perry County, addresses the region’s urgent dental needs, which she said are second only to Alaska in the United States.

Cornett said the Mobile Dental Clinic Unit contains two complete dental units with two full-time dentists and all staff. She said that any child can receive treatment with parental consent, and Medicaid or private insurance will be billed. For those without insurance, the initial treatment will be done at no cost to the parents, but further treatments should be set up with a local dentist. She added that Medicaid will cover dental costs for children. The program will work through the Family Resource Center and the only thing it will require from the school is a parking space.

Elementary Principal Amanda Anderson reported that most of the carpet has been removed from Burdine Elementary and replaced with tile. She said this is in compliance with COVID-19 plans. She also thanked Bobby Tackett, Scotty Church, and Little Scotty Church as well as Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest for helping to install new basketball goals on the Burdine playground.

Jenkins Middle High School Principal Rondall Baker said new digital security cameras are ready to be installed and cameras will also be installed at the football field.

Johnson said that students will eat lunch in the cafeteria and observe social distancing. They will have assigned seats as well.

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