KENTUCKY — Three remaining school districts affected by the floods in July are preparing to return to the classrooms next week. 

What You Need To Know

  • Jenkins Independent and Knott County Schools return Sept. 19

  • Letcher County Public Schools returns Sept. 21

  • The Kentucky Department of Education said they're working with students and families to fix internet connectivity issues

In the Kentucky Department of Education’s meeting Thursday night, officials said Jenkins Independent, Knott County Schools and Letcher County Public Schools are using “every minute of the next four or five days” to welcome students back to school after repairing flood damage. 

“I’m really proud of the teamwork that all of these groups showed to make this happen,” said Jenkins Independent Superintendent Damian Johnson. “It’s really amazing.”

In late July, intense rainfall turned into floods that ravaged parts of Kentucky, causing damage to hundreds of homes and buildings. Schools were also affected, pushing back start dates for the academic year.

Jenkins Independent and Knott County Schools will return Sept. 19, whereas Letcher County Public Schools will start Sept. 21. 

Many students and families placed in temporary housing are facing internet issues, and KDE officials said they’re working with the campgrounds families are staying at to enhance connectivity. In Letcher County alone, as of the start of September, more than 1,000 were displaced because of the flooding and over 7,500 students statewide didn’t start school yet. 

KDE said Breathitt County currently has 13 students at one campground with limited access to the internet, limiting their ability to complete schoolwork or preventing parents from being able to log on to portals.

Breathitt County Superintendent Phillip Watts said they’re asking for help, but the progress is slow going.

KDE Associate Commissioner David Couch said hotspots are the service that will most quickly address the issues in campgrounds of displaced adults and students.

Couch there are two federal funding sources that could help for those at campgrounds that can have hotspots: the district Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Parents can apply to these, or there are companies that provide temporary internet access, Couch said. 

KDE said only Breathitt County has displaced students living at a campground without an available internet option at the moment. 

Districts also expressed concern for transportation issues in previous KDE meetings. KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney said the SAFE fund administered by the department can help provide wraparound services for students and family. This includes transportation costs, after-school tutoring and mental health counseling. 

Districts can access the department’s SAFE fund application on KDE’s State Grants webpage.