OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. — Oldham County has joined the growing list of school districts planning dual learning in the fall.
Superintendent Greg Schultz laid out the new plan to the school board Tuesday before the board voted unanimously to pass the item. Schultz told Spectrum News 1 the so-called "Virtual Learning Academy" would be far better than Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) models hastily implemented across the state in March as COVID-19 rapidly spread.
As for in-person classes, Oldham County will follow state mandates on masks and distancing, but is it possible to hold safe in-person schooling while virus numbers rise? To that end, school board Vice Chair KEvin Woosley asked Schultz a direct question.
"You’ve had enough experience – in the district and as a teacher – to know, are you comfortable with teaching on the guidelines that we’re gonna set tonight?" Woosley asked.
"That's a bit of a loaded question," Schultz answered before expanding further. "It would definitely be a difference… If I had to service my kids, and I felt like this was the best it’s gonna get, I would do that… I would not intentionally put anyone in harm’s way."
Teachers were mixed in with the dozen-or-so who gave public comment. Outside the venue, we met a group of North Oldham teachers who came to support them.
"We just want to be in the classroom with our kids," said Colvin Atchison. "But we just want to make sure it’s safe. And we don’t want to get sick ourselves, we don’t want to get them sick."
"I don’t understand why we’re going back when we closed in March with fewer cases, and now the cases are rising," added Shawn Marshall.
"We did do a survey of our teachers in our collective group," said Stephanie Vaneps. "And almost 80% said that they really think we should start with NTI, based on the cases rising."
Indeed, one of the teachers who commented to the board Tuesday, Danese Caley, shared with Spectrum News 1 data she compiled from 399 of her fellow educators. According to the data, 77 percent said they would prefer to begin the school year using NTI practices. The other 23 percent preferred to return to school in person.
Back inside, some parents were also hesitant, while some were eager to get back to a normal school calendar.
"I work 50-60 hours a week," said Beth, a mother of an Oldham County student. "My husband travels 11 states, so, being able to go back to a system where my son can attend school is critical."
District Communications Director Lori McDowell presented her own research data to the school board. Out of 1,347 staff members who responded to a survey, 45 percent said they are at a higher health risk or have family who is, and 94 percent of those same respondents said they would be returning to work in the fall.
Just weeks away, a two-roads approach awaits them and the children in their care.