School Superintendents Mark Kopp and Houston Barber both hope to have a plan to reopen schools that can be presented at their July 6 school board meetings.
What those plans will look like remains to be seen.
Kopp, superintendent of Franklin County Schools, and Barber, Frankfort Independent Schools superintendent, spoke Monday at the weekly Frankfort-Franklin County COVID-19 update.
Both systems closed their schools in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and finished the year with nontraditional, or remote, instruction.
Kopp said FCS has a core committee of 18 people that has been meeting weekly to discuss issues of implementation. There are three subcommittees — health and safety, transportation and instruction and academic issues.
The subcommittees have 12 to 30 members each.
“In all honesty, though, every time we feel like we’re making little bit of headway in term of some ideas and some things that can work, we end up going down a rabbit hole that opens up multiple issues,” Kopp said.
“I’m a member of Optimist Club. I’m very optimistic and have been through this whole process, but my pessimism started to kick in the end of last week when I saw what was happening in terms of what our professional sports leagues were going through.”
Among other sports, Major League Baseball suspended spring training after several players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
“As they started to reopen they’ve been having all kinds of issues; I think you’ve seen in the news,” Kopp said. “Several prominent players have been infected with the disease, colleges are quarantining players, facilities have closed and they don’t know when they’ll open.
“I worry very much about the same thing for our schools. We can have the very best plan in place. It doesn’t matter how great the plan is, though, and it doesn’t matter how well we pull off the initial implementation, if we have one kid who gets sick, and contract tracing then has to take place, we’re going to be in the same boat as these sports leagues.”
Barber said FIS has a task force of 30 people and four teams that exist outside of the task force — reopen schedules team, health and safety team, operations and logistics team, and instructional strategies and classroom makeup team.
He also said the school district is still planning on opening Aug. 3.
“We’re looking at second wave (of COVID-19) happening after that, and the sooner we start, the better,” Barber said.
“The challenges with that are logistics. We have some people virtual and some at school. We have staff logistics to think about, not just students, and how best to serve the community.
“How do we social distance well? The use of masks continues to be discussed, and face shields. How do we get the proper instruction to our kids if they’re not in school? How do we get them the proper mental health services? How do we come up with a strategy that they’re getting the support they need and is required?”
Despite the questions, Barber said he's “excited about coming up with some solutions.”
“It’s all over the place, and we’re still narrowing in on focus because guidelines change daily," he said. "I’m excited about a solution, but be aware the process will play out, and we are very focused on the process so it can get results worthy of our students, families and community.”
Kopp said one plan discussed has a school being divided into two groups with each group going to school two days a week and the fifth day used for cleaning.
“There are so many logistical issues, so many instructional issues, and I say all that to say, nothing is ever going to replace a teacher in front of students,” he said. “It’s the best thing for our parents, it’s the best thing for our kids, but if we can’t assure the safety of our students and our staff. That’s the No. 1 goal of every school system is when we get your kiddos in the morning, we get them home safely at the end of the day.
“If we’re not able to assure that, I think we may be spinning our wheels a little bit.”
Frankfort-Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tom Russell gave an update on the latest reopening phase for the state.
The next change is that on June 29, groups of up to 50 people will be allowed to gather.
“I’m not sure how we go about enforcing that, but we’re asking everyone to maintain social distancing," Russell said.
“After the 29th we’ll revisit pavilions, rentals and low-touch sports. I’m meeting with the Parks and Rec staff tomorrow (Tuesday), and we’ll run through the gamut of what we need to do going forward.”
Mayor Bill May gave an update on the Juniper Hill Aquatic Center. He didn’t say it was closed for the summer, but he didn’t give much hope that it would open.
“It’s going to be difficult this year to open the aquatic center due to the time of year it is,” he said. “Most lifeguards are students, a lot are college students out of town, and based on that and the guidelines of the Emergency Management staff, it looks very unlikely the pool is going to be opened this year.”