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Letcher schools busy preparing for Nov. 4

Barring a catastrophic explosion in COVID-19 cases, Letcher County Schools will definitely resume inperson classes for some students on November 4.

The county’s incidence rate for infections stood at 13.3 on Tuesday, and the rate must be below 25, red on the state’s COVID map, on Thursday in order for school to be called off next week. The rate is based on the average number of cases per day over a seven-day period.

“Today, we are at 13.3. Ten is in yellow, so we’re close to yellow and moving in the right direction,” Superintendent Denise Yonts said at the regular meeting of the Letcher County Board of Education on Monday.

Buses have been running to deliver lunches to students who were doing virtual classes at home, and are now being cleaned and prepared for students to ride them. Maintenance work that is usually put off until summer has been done while students are home due to the pandemic, and classrooms are being set up for the first day in person in months.

“Unless we have a big jump (in COVID cases), we will be able to have inperson classes next week,” Yonts said.

Students who signed up for virtual classes during the summer will continue those at-home classes for the time being in order to keep population at the schools low and allow for social distancing.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ronnie Goins said the district has about a 98-percent participation rate in the on-line classes.

Board Chairman Will Smith said he has received a lot of calls from parents worried about computer reports that their children are tardy while participating in virtual classes. Yonts said participation is counted by looking at the number of students who turn in their assignments. When students are in school, they are counted present until the teacher marks them absent, but that’s not the case for virtual education.

“Here, kids are counted absent until the teacher marks them present,” Yonts said. That means students are shown as tardy or absent until their class work is graded. Eventually, she said, the attendance does catch up with reality, though it takes longer for students who are doing their work on flash drives instead of the Internet. Letcher Elementary, for example, has a lower participation rate for now because there is less Internet connectivity in that area, and flash drives are exchanged at school once a week.

In other business at the meeting, Monday night, the board voted to approve consent items that included:

• Approved nonresident contracts with Knott County Public Schools , Perry County Schools, Hazard Independent Schools, Pike County Schools, Pike County Public Schools, Pikeville Independent Schools, , and Harlan Independent Schools. The agreements allow students in the Letcher County District to attend those schools without charge, and student from those districts can attend Letcher without charge.

• Approved a payment of $13,050 to Breeding Plumbing and Electric for work constructing a bathroom at Whitesburg Middle School.

• Approved a changed form to be sent to the Kentucky Department of Education. The total project for the bathroom will now be $124,950, including a contingency fee of $5,250 and architect fees of $14,700.

• Voted to purchase four school buses.

• Approved a financial report showing the board had $11,391,509.18 in the bank, and voted to pay bills.

• Held a closed session to discuss litigation.

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