Barren County students return Monday, Tuesday in midst of pandemic

Bo Matthews, Superintendent of Barren County Schools, speaks to a crowd inside Barren County High School’s Auditorium regarding the school system’s decision to begin the school year with in-person instruction. The meeting was held Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

GLASGOW, Ky. – Students within the Barren County school system returned to classrooms on Monday, and several others will return on Tuesday.

Students and staff made their return to in-person instruction after several weeks of remote instruction due to limitations placed on the school system due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For a break down, it looks like we’re going to have about 80% of our total school population return on the eleventh,” said Bo Matthews, Superintendent of Barren County Schools. “We’ll still have about 20% who will remain with the distance learning option.”

School officials continue to be uncertain of the future weeks as the pandemic continues. Matthews said the school system will continue on a hybrid-based schedule through the third quarter, which lasts nine weeks.

The hybrid schedule warrants a certain number of students on Monday and Wednesday and the remainder on Tuesday and Thursday. Friday is a distanced learning day.

While many continue to receive the coronavirus vaccine, several remain in the line to receive it.

Student populations are limited in their ability to receive the available vaccines due to limited research in younger populations. But Matthews said the vaccine dispersion may enable the school system to return to a functioning schedule similar to the pre-pandemic world.

“I will say that if the vaccines arrive at the middle of the month to the end of the month and we’re able to get the second shot, we’ll look at turning the dial and move back,” Matthews said, “Hopefully, toward the regular schedule as soon as we feel we can safely do so.”

The primary consequence of returning to in-person instruction is wide spread infections. The superintendent said many students perform well away from the classroom.

“There are a lot of our students who have done exceptionally well with the distance learning model,” Matthews said. “They’ve continued on with their learning. They’ve been successful.”

But the consequence of removing students from the traditional teaching environment will require thorough rehabilitation efforts.

“But we also acknowledge that there are many students that have not done exceptionally well,” Matthews said.

The school system identifies that diagnostic approaches to learning gaps will follow the extended hiatus. And the school system is discussing summer school opportunities, Matthews said.

The Barren County School board took a “radical or abrasive” approach last fall when they decided to reopen their doors – a move that contradicted what state officials recommended. But Matthews said he is confident evidence points to the safety of students inside schools.

“On the national level, there is data now to support that we really need to do everything we possibly can to get back into school, and certainly we’re doing that,” Matthews said.

There is no information available at this time regarding late spring activities such as graduations and events that necessitate gatherings. State officials will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact on school systems.