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Fayette County Schools Go Virtual For The Start Of New School Year

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The upcoming school year will begin virtually for Fayette County students, following a unanimous decision by the district's school board.

Pointing to an escalation in cases in recent weeks, both in Lexington and across Kentucky, Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk recommended students learn from home at least for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

"Again, nothing is final," he explained. "In order to get beyond that particular state, it's going to take all of us working to together to reduce the spread, changing our behavior."

Caulk characterized that spread, which has led new case numbers above 500 in recent days, as "significant."

The district surveyed student parents and guardians between July 1-12, and found that nearly 70 percent preferred sending their children back to school for in-person instruction on a staggered schedule consisting of two days a week in-person and three days virtual. The survey, which garnered close to 40,000 responses, showed nearly as many parents preferred a return to traditional in-classroom learning with masks and other safety precautions alongside an option for virtual.

A similar poll of teachers and staff found the hybrid in-person and remote option won the most support, though traditional learning scored a distant third. That survey ran from July 8-19.

Yet school board members expressed concerns that the data might be out-of-date, noting that they had received correspondence from parents who said the recent upswing in coronavirus trends has shifted their opinions more toward virtual or non-traditional learning.

"I think as the public health landscape has changed, people's attitudes about returning to in-person instruction have changed," board member Tyler Murphy says. "Certainly that's been indicated in my email inbox and my phone messages that I've gotten."

The board will meet again Monday to discuss a school calendar. The school year is set to begin Aug. 24.

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