HUNTINGTON — Leaders for Cabell County Schools are working to develop a five-day, in-person learning model for students in the fall, while taking proper safety precautions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a re-entry survey released by the county that wrapped up June 21 with over 3,300 responses, most preferred a four- or five-day school week, with blended learning coming in second and complete remote learning the least preferable.
The blended learning model would separate students in classes into groups A and B, who would attend in-person classes two days a week in rotation with remote instruction three days a week, and was preferred among some middle school staff in the district who participated in the survey, as well as some staff in high schools.
Superintendent Ryan Saxe and the district’s executive leadership team pitched potential options to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening during a special meeting, although a more finalized plan won’t be released until later this week.
Kristin Giles, executive director of elementary schools in the district, said students in grades K-5 would head directly to classrooms upon arrival instead of being held in one area before the start of the school day, and would be dismissed at the end of the day by staggering students to each bus or pickup area.
At lunchtime, students in grades K-2 could eat in the cafeteria of their school, possibly with three separate lunches; older students in grades 3-5 would remain in the classroom for lunch. Recess would occur one classroom at a time.
“This really is guidance for the schools. I think my 18 (schools) are going to probably look different with some of this,” Giles said. “Obviously, your Village of Barboursville is going to look very different than Cox Landing because the population is so much larger.”
Executive Director of Middle Schools Justin Boggs suggested delaying the current middle school schedule by 30 minutes to make sure teachers are present when children arrive, allowing most students to go directly to classrooms as opposed to being held in the gymnasium or cafeteria in large groups.
Middle schools in the district would also use alternate locations for lunchtime or create additional lunch blocks.
Similar procedures would take place at Huntington and Cabell Midland high schools, said Joedy Cunningham, executive director of high schools.
Student centers, lecture halls, auxiliary gymnasiums and concourse areas would be opened for additional seating as students arrive at school and during lunchtime.
Cunningham said while he anticipates no additional lunches will be needed, a longer lunch period could be considered.
At the Cabell County Career Technology Center, changes would also be made to create social distancing among students.
Saxe said additional staff, including custodians and other service personnel, may be hired through CARES Act funding as the district works toward the five-day scenario.
“We also understand that in order to make sure our staff and our students are safe, we need to be able to provide masks,” Saxe said. “That’s going to be something that’s a non-negotiable at this point.”
A virtual learning option has been available for middle and high schoolers for two years in the district, and the board approved adding an elementary option to the program Monday.
This differs from “remote learning,” Saxe said, which students participated in during the coronavirus shutdown in March, April and May. Students and families interested must sign up for the program prior to the school year.
Saxe said the county hopes to offer the option for students to attend in-person classes in rotation and receive virtual assignments during the remainder of the week, but this will be dependent on staffing availability and funding.
A more detailed plan is set to be announced at 3:30 p.m. Friday, July 10, when the board will meet again to vote on the guidelines.