The ending of the 2019-2020 school year experienced an unexpected roadblock, but now with the upcoming school year looming, school administrators have been placed in the difficult position of deciding on the appropriate plan of action. Students, parents, and educators alike have voiced opinions for and against in-person classes during the ongoing pandemic and last night, the Madison County Board of Education made their choice regarding the current reopening plans for schools.
Parents and educators gathered last night at the special-called meeting. At the meeting, which saw a peaceful demonstration and public comments, the reopening plans for county schools were discussed. The topic has been a highly contested one that has seen numerous changes due to the seemingly ever-evolving nature of the ongoing pandemic.
Before the meeting began, demonstrators who told WBON TV that they had traveled from Louisville on behalf of local teachers, assembled outside of the Board of Education building with signs in opposition to in-person courses being held for the beginning of the upcoming school year.
Once the meeting officially started, the floor was opened for public comment from the President of the Madison County Education Association, Susan Cintra. The Madison County teacher expressed a desire to get back into the classroom but urged the board of education to consider adopting a virtual learning environment, at least until after the first six weeks of the school year had passed.
“As much as we want to get back to our kids, we don’t feel safe doing it”, Cintra said. “We don’t feel safe for our kids that we want so desperately to see. We don’t feel safe for our own children; many of them are also students in our schools. We don’t feel safe for our families, and we don’t feel safe for ourselves.”
Cintra told board members that a survey sent out by the association indicated that out of over 400 members of the MCEA, many do not feel safe returning to schools and the majority are either considered to be at high risk for contracting COVID-19 or live with someone who is considered high-risk.
“Of the over 400 responses we’ve received, 80 percent of our teachers do not feel safe returning to in-person instruction”, Cintra told board members. “We asked on the survey how many of our teachers were at risk or lived with someone who was at risk. Of the 400 plus teachers who responded — 69 percent. That’s 281 teachers [who] are high-risk or live with someone who is high-risk.”
Moments later, Superintendent David Gilliam provided a summary of the 20 plus page document detailing the current reopening plans for Madison County Schools. Common concerns ranging from bus transport policies to additional staff training were addressed during the forum. Increased sanitation and heightened safety protocols are being planned to coincide with health guidelines which were consulted when structuring the reopening plans.
In the event of a positive COVID-19 case, the Madison County Health Department will be in charge of contacting involved parties as well as contact tracing. Due to restrictions related to HIPPA and FERPA, the school system is prohibited from identifying individuals who test positive.
Once the Superintendent concluded the overview of contingency plans, the board voted unanimously to return to school on August 26th for the 2020-2021 school year. Families do have three attendance options – in-person learning, interactive distance learning, and independent distance learning. More details on each plan can be found on the school district’s website.
Additionally, board members reiterated that the plan is subject to change at future meetings.