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Harlan schools plan for 2020-21 year

School districts in Harlan County are leaving no stone unturned in an attempt to plan out a 2020-21 calendar year, hoping to achieve some normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping it functional and safe for students and faculty.

Harlan County and Harlan Independent school districts have set the return date for their students on Aug. 31. Although the later start date gives the pandemic more time to taper off, flexibility in scheduling of the school years is the ultimate goal, mixing online and in-person classes in an attempt to limit contact and protect each individual’s health.

“The 2020-21 school year will present challenges we have never faced in our community, state and nation,” Brent Roark, superintendent of the Harlan County School District, said. “We appreciate your patience as we work daily to create and modify options meeting the needs of our students and families.”

Roark said his school district’s staff is working diligently to arrange health and safety protocols in such a manner that the safest environment is provided for students attending the public school.

In a letter to parents and guardians, Roark said he is trying to identify the number of students who will opt for virtual classes and how many will decide to attend in-person classes on the “traditional modified attendance schedule.”

“It is very important we have accurate information to prepare classrooms, employee and student schedules, transportation, meals and many other components,” he said.

If attending classes in-person, students will attend school on a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday rotation, with Fridays being a “choice” day for students who need additional help and support.

Students opting for virtual instruction will utilize the Odysseyware-Edgeunity virtual platform supported by Harlan County teachers. Students will still be able to communicate and receive support from their teachers as needed, according to Roark’s letter.

Roark said a FAQ sheet is available on the school district’s website that provides information on the two options.

“We ask all families to complete a brief survey indicating the option they prefer,” he said. “It is critical that families complete the survey in order for us to plan appropriately for the coming year.”

To access the survey for each school, go to www.harlan.kyschools.us.

Harlan Independent School District is taking a similar approach to the upcoming school year by also starting on Aug. 31, although much deliberation still remains to determine how instruction will take place.

In a release from the school district, families were asked to be “keenly aware” that it is impossible to “predict with much certainty any element of a traditional calendar.”

“As a result, please keep in mind that all scheduled breaks are subject to change or be potentially eliminated,” the release read. “Schools across Kentucky have been advised to anticipate a wide range of disruptions that will most likely impact the adopted school calendar. These disruptions could range from a slight adjustment/delay up to long-term non-traditional instruction implementation.”

Harlan Independent board members said they will continue to collect and review information from families and will begin working on a design for the students’ instructional day.

“As you can imagine, there are a number of very important issues to consider before a final implementation plan is announced. We will continue to gather data and design plans that we believe will be good for students and families of the Harlan Independent School District.”

If you have questions regarding Harlan Independent’s plans, call 606-573-8700 Monday through Friday.

Both calendars are available through this article on our website at www.harlanenterprise.net.