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Schools close because of coronavirus

Clark County Public Schools announced Thursday evening they will remain closed through the end of the month because of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

The announcement came after the Clark County Board of Education voted unanimously earlier in the day to approve an application for the district to qualify for non-traditional instruction (NTI) days in case of a closure caused by the virus.

Gov. Andy Beshear urged all schools in the state to close for at least two weeks in response to the COVID outbreak.

In a statement posted to the CCPS website, Superintendent Paul Christy announced the schools would remain open today but would be closed March 16-27. Spring break will remain March 30 through April 2. The current plan is to return to school April 6.

The board had an emergency meeting Thursday, which was called late Wednesday night, to consider the waiver application, which would add 10 NTI days to the district’s calendar for a virus-related closure.

NTI days allow academic instruction to continue on days when school must be closed for things like weather or sickness.

There are 83 school districts in the state that already have NTI days built into their schedules. Clark is among 89 districts that do not traditionally use NTI days.

The Kentucky Department of Education announced Wednesday that those districts could apply for the waiver to add NTI days no later than 11:59 p.m. Friday.

“The move was made in response to widespread concern regarding the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential need to close school facilities upon recommendations of public health officials,” a press release issued Wednesday stated.

Using NTI days, “school districts create plans to deliver instruction to every student in the district and provide for student and teacher interaction on NTI days, with the ultimate goal of continuing instruction,” according to the release.

Christy told the board Thursday that his team of administrators was still crafting a final plan for how the district would implement NTI days, especially because he has concerns about how some students will be able to access the online learning tools typically involved with NTI days.

“I haven’t been a believer in the (NTI) plan prior to this because I think it makes it difficult to equitably educate all students,” Christy said. “But, we’re kind of in a dire situation right now.”

By implementing NTI days, the district can close for virus-related reasons for 10 days without having to make those days up at the end of the school year, Christy said. He said there is legislation being considered this week that may allow districts to use 20 NTI days.

He said NTI days might include instruction through online programs, worksheets sent home with students, picking up and dropping off work at the schools, or a combination of these methods and others.

Additionally, the schools would continue to operate a feeding program to offer breakfast and lunch to students through a sort-of drive-through service.

“We have to be proactive,” board Chair Ashley Ritchie said.

Board member Gordon Parido asked Christy to provide members with a plan by Monday outlining how teachers and other staff would be expected to respond to work during a potential closure.

Christy said teachers would still be expected to provide instruction and classified staff might be asked to perform other duties like cleaning schools and buses or delivering meals.

There was no word at press time about if the waiver had been approved by the state.

“I will tell you in 29 years in education, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Christy said. “I’ve never seen everything in such a disarray as it is right now. I’ve never seen anything like this in education especially. We’ve had some confusing times, but nothing like this.”

In a letter posted to the district site, Christy said he knows the closure creates challenges for families of local students.

“Please bear with us as we work through this unprecedented difficult time together,” he wrote.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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