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Ballard County Board of Education sets Aug. 31 for return to in-person learning; virtual learning to begin Aug. 26
Members of the Ballard County Board of Education have voted unanimously to move the beginning of in-person instruction to Aug. 31. Some types of virtual instruction will begin on Aug. 26.
Parents will have the choice of in-person or virtual learning for their children; students will have that type of instruction Monday through Thursday, with Fridays reserved for non-traditional instruction online for all students. 
“We believe that in-person instruction is the best way for students to learn,” said Dr. Casey Allen, Ballard superintendent. “We also understand that right now, some parents feel that the best option for their students is in a virtual-learning environment. The board’s decision allows parents to choose what they think is best for their children.”
The Friday NTI sessions won’t be like the NTI that took place at the end of last semester, Dr. Allen said. Students in grades K-12 will be issued Chromebooks, and teachers have been training on ways to maximize technology to make both in-person and virtual learning seamless for students. 
“Having these more-robust NTI sessions on Fridays, at least here at the beginning of the semester, will allow all students and teachers to become familiar and comfortable with that technology,” he continued. “In the event that we have to return to all virtual learning at any time, everyone can hit the ground running, instead of taking time to ramp up to the new way of doing things.”
Dr. Allen added that with all-virtual NTI on Fridays, he understood that some families would have an extra day of childcare. “I’d just ask you to remember that extra day also gives us the opportunity to deep-clean our buildings without students here,” a move that would be good for everyone, he said.
Virtual learners will have appointments set for Tuesday, Aug. 25, to pick up their district-issued Chromebooks. In-person learners will have appointments for Aug. 26 and 27 to come in, pick up their Chromebooks, and spend a little time with teachers to become familiar with the new machines.
In-person classes will begin at regular school hours on Monday, Aug. 31, for those choosing that format. 
Dr. Allen said that parent surveys in June showed that 85-90 percent across the district favored returning to in-person classes. When asked to commit to their preferred type of instruction in a second survey, the number fell to approximately 70 percent. The deadline for that survey was Aug. 10, the day of Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation to delay in-person classes to Sept. 28, so actual numbers of students returning in person may be below that 70-percent line.
Board chair Karen Tilford Hensley assured the dozen or so parents present that the body had fully studied the question. “We have attempted to look at every angle, and consider every stakeholder,” she said. “We believe students learn best in-person, but we just have to find a way to do that safely.”
Hensley continued, “If we do this, we have to do it right, and we’ll have to follow the rules” laid out by the Purchase District Health Department for student and staff safety. 
Dr. Allen also reminded parents that even with all safety measures in place, “It’s not unrealistic to say, that at some point, we may have to go on all-virtual classes.” The district has no additional substitute bus drivers available at this time, and many substitute teachers are from the ranks of teachers who have been retired from the system for some time. 
“If we can’t staff our buildings, we will have to go all-virtual,” he continued. “If it happens, it will be out of our control.”
Additional details on Google classrooms and tech support for parents, as well as internet hotspots in the community, and feeding plans for virtual-learning students, will be available by the end of this week.
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