School system updates plans as COVID-19 shutdown continues

During the coronavirus shutdown of schools – a shutdown that the Governor says will last the rest of the school year – Pulaski County Schools are still working.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting at Pulaski County High School, which was livestreamed over YouTube for the public’s benefit, the board learned that school officials are concentrating on four initiatives during the shutdown.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said those four initiatives include food services, continuing educational opportunities, preparing to become childcare centers and eventually returning to normalcy

Siers said that as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, the school system had served over 10,000 meals to school students and their families.

However, he announced that because a case of the COVID-19 virus had been confirmed in the area adjustments to the school system’s efforts to provide meals were being made.

Siers said door-to-door deliveries of meals were being eliminated because such deliveries expose too many people to potentially contracting the virus.

Siers continued that school food service workers would now be working in staggered shifts, with eight to 10 people working at a time – again to lessen the opportunity to being exposed to the virus.

Food pickup times and sites have been restructured to reduce the number of buses needed for distribution, and volunteer help on the buses is now being declined.

“We appreciate so many people who jumped in to help with that, but in order to reduce the number of people who are exposed or possibly exposed we’re declining any further volunteer assistance,” Siers said.

Also, food distribution has been changed from a three-day schedule to a two-day with four meals (two breakfasts and two lunches) being provided on Mondays and six on Wednesdays (three breakfasts and three lunches).

Regarding continuation of learning opportunities, Siers said there is an expectation that teachers will try and provide a small amount of new instruction for the remainder of the school year so students don’t come back next year with a five-month gap in educational opportunities.

He said teachers will continue to send out lessons either via the internet or the mail.

Siers said more slots will be made available for summer enrichment programs, and the extended school year program for those students with IEPs who need additional support will be extended.

Siers told the board he is in talks with the YMCA on a partnership to provide childcare for children of those deemed as essential employees.

Siers said the state gives a broad definition of who are “essential,” and it includes healthcare providers, essential government employees, criminal justice personnel, firefighters, military members, those who operate shelters, employees who insure continuity of basic services such as gas, internet, water, plumbing, garbage collection, essential transportation, essential food service workers, pharmaceutical workers and more.

“We would provide the facilities for their children, ages 3 to 18,” Siers said.

He added that in preliminary talks, two sites for such childcare facilities have been discussed – Pulaski Elementary and Riverlawn Elementary.

He said children would be cared for groups of 10, and if there are enough children more sites may be established.

And while Siers said such events as prom and graduation aren’t priority in the shutdown, they are still important.

He said thoughts are that if the coronavirus crisis has abated in time, school officials are looking at possibly holding prom on June 6 and graduation on June 12.

Discussion resulted in other ideas, such as a “virtual graduation,” an Eighth Grade Dance and even an open house event where students can return journals and instructional packets to teachers – giving teachers and students an opportunity to say “goodbye” for the year – something they were cheated out of by the virus.


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