Eastern Kentucky schools focus on reopening – Reuters

Eastern Kentucky schools focus on reopening

Posted 9:09am Thursday, September 8, 2022

KENTUCKY TODAY

Superintendents of eastern Kentucky school districts that were devastated by the July floods shared their progress during a virtual meeting with Kentucky Department of Education officials on Thursday.

Currently, more than 7,600 students in eastern Kentucky are not back in school after the flood, but four schools districts (Jenkins Independent, Knott County, Leslie County and Letcher County) and two schools in Perry County will open later this month.

“We have set a date for the start of the school year. We still have hurdles to overcome, but we plan to start school in Letcher County on Sept. 21,” Superintendent Denise Yonts said.

Knott County Schools will return Sept. 19 after meetings with project managers and architects, SupeQuartermaster Brent Hoover reported. “We were probably 75 per cent confident and now we are 90 per cent confident barring unforeseen circumstances. All challenges have been met or met.

In Perry County, two of the district’s schools, Buckhorn and Robinson Elementary, were severely damaged by floodwaters. Students from both schools will be taught this year at the district’s AB Combs Elementary Campus, a building that has been used primarily for sports since its closure in 2017. Students housed at AB Combs Elementary will start school on September 6.

“We’re very confident that we’re ready to go,” Superintendent Jonathan Jett said. “Were excited.”

Schools in Leslie County will reopen September 6 and Jenkins Independent will reopen September 12.

Many of the 25 districts affected by the floodg have a large number of displaced students and families, but getting them back to school will help restore a sense of normalcy the region has been looking for since the floods that hit towards the end of July.

“We are very grateful to bring our students back because we were able to serve our families better by inviting them back the building,” Floyd County Superintendent Anna Shepherd said.

Shepherd noted that there are still 31 displaced students and nine displaced staff in the district, but having them in schools allows for direct communication about available resources and services.

Thanks to the recent special session, districts can now apply for assistance from the East Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies, or SAFE.

Legislation provided $40 million for cleaning, repairing and cordoning off schools services. It also includes up to 15 days of student attendance that can be waived until January 20, 2023, and expands the use of distance learning for students and emergency leave for educators.

Other sources of SAFE funding administered by Kentucky Emergency Management, districts may seek reimbursement for services, personnel, and equipment; financial support to helpt with replacement of buildings and tangible assets; replacement or renovation of public buildings; and tight fiscal liquidity.

Betty K. Park