Caldwell students go back to school this week

Dawson Harris, a fifth-grader at Caldwell County Elementary School, gets directions from CCES Principal Malissa Thomas as he gets off the bus for his first day of school Monday. Through the district’s hybrid plan, those students taking in-school instruction had their first days of school Monday or Tuesday.

Several Caldwell County students returned to the classroom Monday and Tuesday through the school district’s COVID hybrid plan, allowing students to take instruction either at home or in school.

In-school instruction was suspended at the start of the school year by the recommendation from Gov. Andy Beshear that Kentucky schools begin the year with online instruction until at least Sept. 28.

Several school districts across the state opted to return to the classroom through their own COVID plans before that date.

Over the summer, parents of Caldwell County students filled out a survey indicating if they wanted their children to take instruction at home or in school.

Half of those students whose parents wanted them in school attend school on Monday and Wednesday, while the other half will attend on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is an at-home instruction day for all students.

Interim Superintendent Heath Cartwright said the first two days of in-school instruction went well.

“Obviously, it’s a little unusual having two first days of school back-to-back,” he said. “We had a large group of students that (Monday) was their first day, and another large group that (Tuesday) was their first day.

“Everybody is really excited, and our staff is in their element, having kids in the building for them to be able to teach.”

Former Superintendent Nate Huggins announced the hybrid plan in July and set Aug. 24 as the first day of school in accordance with Beshear’s recommendation. However, the Caldwell County Board of Education voted Sept. 1 to return to school on Monday, based on information received from the Pennyrile District Health Department and other health sources.

Those taking in-school instruction still must follow state and national COVID-19 guidelines.

“Everything has pretty well gone as planned,” Cartwright said Tuesday. “As it always is on the first few days of transporting students on buses, there’s always situations where we have to work on changes of addresses and buses’ pick-up times and things like that.

“But even with those issues, everything was incredibly smooth (Monday). I feel like it will be the same…as we continue.”

Cartwright said that he did not see any issues with younger students wearing masks throughout the school day except in lunch.

“I’m sure that for all of the students and staff, there’s a level of physical discomfort in wearing the mask,” he said. “But, everybody has really bought in to doing what we have to do to have kids in the building and be able to bring back a sense of normalcy when it comes to what teaching and learning look like.”