LaRue County Schools opened to in-person classes on Monday since the COVID-19 pandemic hit around March.

The 2020-21 school year began on Aug. 24 with online schooling and have now begun in-person classes on Monday.

Guidance put into place for the district includes masks for grades first through 12th, social distancing , consistent cleaning and sanitizing, screening students and assigning seats for contact tracing.

The district is implementing a hybrid learning model for grades 9th through 12th, and may be extended to the rest of the district is conditions warrant it.

Students will be split among two groups, blue and white. Blue will attend school in-person Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday, while white will attend Tuesday, Thursday and every other Friday.

Houston Cruse, a teacher 10th through 12th grade teacher, has been in education for 16 years.

Cruse said in an email that the structure of the day was similar to a regular block schedule, and gives students communication with three educators and a transition readiness teacher.

Cruse said administrators have provided an alternative education program for students, and said this has basically created another school from the existing county schools in a digital format.

He said many students have not been able to have almost any personal interaction with other people their age, which can be damaging to growth.

“Their willingness to adapt to these modifications has been tremendous and the county is truly appreciative of their flexibility during this time,” Cruse said.

Debbie Ellis, third grade math teacher, has been teaching for more than 15 years.

Ellis said in an email that the day was structured normally in terms of time frames, but teachers rotated around the third grade classrooms rather than the students, with them remaining in the same classroom all day for lunch, specials and recess.

She said they moved throughout the building briefly to practice hallways and dismissal procedures, but students kept their distance in line and wore masks.

Every grade level has one teacher assigned to the virtual students, while the others teach in-person class. Ellis said they are currently revisiting difficult concepts to ensure all students understand.

“We want to lessen any learning gaps, so we’re slowing our pace these first few days back in school,” Ellis said.

Ellis said students seemed excited to be back in school, with most following directions, wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

“They know the issues and are happy to comply with our new regulations. They were just so glad to be back at school and I was thrilled to have them return,” Ellis said.

Ellis said while she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary emotionally, they will probably have many conversations in the coming days when students share their experiences from the past few months.

She said she hopes they can remain in school with no return to online learning.

“The optimist in me is impatiently waiting for the day when things to get closer to normal. It’s harder to teach all day wearing a mask and it’s harder for kids to learn that way,” Ellis said.

Ellis said students need to work with partners in small groups, and looks forward to teaching with more effective means.

“We’ll make do now and do the best we can, of course, but I cannot wait for the day when we can return to what we know is best for student learning and social-emotional growth,” Ellis said.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1747 or aharp@thenewsenterprise.com.

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