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New ‘virtual classes’ are better, school board hears


Virtual classes in the Letcher County Schools kicked off today, with some big changes from what students experienced in the spring.

For one, students won’t be able to do work whenever they please. With the new plan, they must log into their computers at a set start time each morning, and those with Internet must interact with their teachers by email and watch live video for part of the day. Students without Internet will do work on flash drives sent home by the schools.

“In the spring, we were learning, but I think we’re in good shape now,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ronnie Goins told the board of education this week.

Every student will have a ChromeBook computer, and those who don’t have Internet access will have jump drives with all of their assignments and instructional videos.

Some teachers were more adept at the technology than others, and Goins said the district has put a lot of effort into making sure they all know how to use it for this year.

“We did a lot of teacher training in preparation for virtual instruction, and we have had a lot of positive feedback about it,” he said.

Director of Pupil Personnel Wendy Rutherford said the district and the state Department of Education has spent months figuring out how attendance will be taken.

Students will have to interact with their teachers online, participate in class discussions and live instructional videos, and turn in flash drives. Grades, as always, will be based on the quality of the work students turn in.

Some teachers will have evening office hours when parents can call them for help, and if teachers find a student that is not participating, they will try to contact the parents, and if that doesn’t work, they will turn the name over to the principal, the counselor and the Family Resources Center to see what can be done to help. Students who fall behind will be brought into school for help catching up.

“It’s going to require everyone, every day and our teachers are up for it,” Rutherford said.

While she said there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction between students and teachers, the district has worked hard to make sure students still learn at home. She said the district also has new students this year, as some parents who had been homeschooling have enrolled their children for virtual education through the district.

Also at the board of education meeting Monday night, the board approved tax rates for this year. Board Chairman Will Smith recommended the board approve a real estate and real and tangible property rate of 69 cents per $100 of assessed value. That means a homeowner with a house valued at $50,000 would pay $345 in school taxes.

“That’s nine cents lower than the state’s recommended rate, so we’re trying to do the best we can on taxes,” Smith said.

The tax rate for cars and boats was set at 49.6 cents, and the utility tax at 3 percent. Those rates are the same as last year.

In other business, the board:

•Approved a new sexual harassment policy to match the language in a new federal law on sexual harassment.

•Approved its homeless project grant, including hiring an additional tutor for that program.

•Awarded a bid for $ 105,000 to Breeding Plumbing and Electric to build a bathroom at Whitesburg Middle School.

•Approved an agreement with Jenkins Independent Schools to supply physical therapy services to students in that district.

•Approved a contract with LKLP Head Start to supply breakfast and lunch to LKLP students. LKLP will help pack the meals and will deliver them.

•Approved a lease agreement with the Southeast Community and Technical College for adult learning classes. The district will supply the equipment and teachers.

•Approved a contract with Hazard Fire and Safety to repair fire alarms.

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