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Schools ready for students’ return

By Lauren Johnson

As the holiday break comes to an end, local schools are preparing for the return of their students and considering the best course of action moving forward.

Eric Burkett, the headmaster of Pike Liberal Arts School, decided to push back the school’s start date to Jan. 11. “We wanted to give everyone who traveled for New Years a chance to get past the ten days when symptoms would show,” he explained.

Burkett explained that Pike Lib  has a team of nurses who recommended the change as an extra precaution. The school does not expect to push the start date back any farther and will resume in-person class on Monday. Postponing the school’s return date will not change the school calendar or any holidays.

“Last semester went really well,” Burkett said. “We have a plan on our website and a flow chart that explains the steps to follow when an individual comes in contact with the virus, and I’m proud of our families for following the steps when needed.”

Pike Lib has offered the virtual option for students with health concerns, but most students attend class for in-person learning. “Our teachers and students have really embraced what we are doing here. They are trying to do the most they can to make sure we are able to attend in-person,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had many cases.”

Burkett hopes that delaying the start date another week will prevent any new cases of COVID-19 at the school. He also hopes to see the same cooperation and progress that he has so far from families, students, and faculty.

“We expect to finish the second semester like we did the first, and hopefully, things will get better as the semester progresses,” he said.

Pike County Schools plan to start school this week on Jan. 7. Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent, said high school students who choose the virtual learning route will have a virtual help day on January 6.

“As we start the second semester, our high school students will get a new schedule with four new classes, so it’s important for our virtual students to get an orientation with their new teachers and with the online system,” Bazzell said.

Bazzell explained that about 40% of the students at the Pike County Schools are still on the virtual learning route. He encourages all the virtual students and their parents to attend this orientation day to be well prepared for the return to school.

“Overall, last semester went pretty well,” Bazzell said. “We’ve had a few bumps with technology, as expected, but I think we’ve resolved most of those issues.”

Bazzell and his team will be continuing to watch the case numbers after the holidays and throughout the month. “Our ultimate goal is to get everyone back to school who wants to as quickly as possible,” he said. “I believe there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction, but we don’t feel like we’re ready to do that quite yet.”

Buses for Pike County Schools will start running again on Thursday morning, and the virtual option will still be available for the students at Pike County Schools.

Troy City Schools will be returning from Christmas break today, Jan. 5. Also, officials are asking students in grades K-8 to return to in-person on January 19th as well as students in grades 9 -12 who are not meeting their academic requirements.

Cynthia Thomas, the superintendent of Troy City Schools, is planning to continue with the steps already set in place to provide a clean and safe environment for students and faculty.

“We are going to continue to follow the CDC guidelines in regards to the cleanliness of our schools,” Thomas said.

Thomas is proud of how the administration, teachers, and students have helped in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the schools and is hopeful everyone will continue the good work. “We’ve faired well and for the most part,” Thomas said. “Our positive cases have been extremely low.”

Troy City Schools publish the positive cases as well as tquarantine numbers weekly on their website.

“We will continue to watch the case numbers after the holidays and throughout the month. We’ll take necessary measures to make sure our students, faculty, and staff are safe,” Thomas said.

Students return  to in-person class at New Life Christian Academy on Jan. 5J. Annie Blackmon, the director of the school, said so far everything is looking good.

“We’re praying and hoping that as we come back we will continue the way we did last semester,” she said. “We haven’t had any teachers out sick, and our students have been well.”

While the students and teachers at New Life have remained healthy for the most part, Blackmon expressed concern for the psychological effects the pandemic has had on students and young people everywhere.

“At the beginning of last semester, the students were fearful, which is probably the same at every school, but I’ve seen that being at school has helped,” she said. “A lot of them had anxiety and fear built up. I don’t think many people are aware of what’s happening to children right now.”

Blackmon has worked with children most of her life and has realized children need social interaction. “I believe the best thing for them is a small environment where they can get the help not just academically, but mentally, socially, and spiritually,” she said. “Being a Christian school, we have been able to help the students through these times with scripture and by letting them know God is with them.”

Blackmon hopes people will notice that children need help, especially as they are struggling with the realities of this pandemic. “The biggest thing is that we continue to pray and encourage,” she said. “We’re looking forward to coming back together this semester and helping the students feel a sense of norm