New guidelines for Kentucky schools, allowing some in-person instruction, will go into effect Jan. 4.
Currently, the Bowling Green Independent School District has virtual only instruction in accord with Gov. Andy Beshear’s order last month to temporarily suspend in-person classes to slow the spread of COVID-19.
During this remote learning, schools are allowed to have "targeted services" with in-person instruction for small groups of students.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Bowling Green Schools Superintendent Gary Fields about how the district is using these "targeted services" to assist students who are at-risk of falling behind during virtual only learning.
Fields: Well, you know, our process for targeted services is very broad. Our targeted services focus on targeted remediation, students that we've identified who are maybe falling behind or struggling. And we know that they need some extra in- person assistance, it could be students who have special education services.
Miller: So you've been able to bring those kids into the school?
Fields: We have done it by following the guidance that the Department of Education gave us. We can bring kids in groups up to five in a pod. They can only come up the two times per week, for a 90-minute session. So, it's not a lot of time. But for a targeted intervention and a teacher working with a small group of kids like that we feel like we can help kids keep progressing during a time when virtual learning is very difficult. And we've seen all the articles around the country and we face the same thing of, you know, kids are struggling academically in this virtual model. So this is a way for us to try to be very specific, very targeted in helping them to keep progressing along academically.
Miller: How many students in the district have been coming in, in the small pods for targeted services?
Fields: I don't have an exact number, but we are doing it at all seven of our schools. So all five of our elementary schools, our middle school and high school. And it varies by day. I was with our middle school staff and they had a group of students who are English Language Learners, who are still trying to master the English language, as well as the content of a middle school curriculum. And so 14 kids were there when I was there in different groups, working with different teachers.
Miller: Obviously, they're wearing masks and they have distancing and all that?
Fields: Correct. So we are sanitizing desks, students are masked up, they are socially distanced. We are doing all those things to make sure that all those students are safe. For the students that we are transporting on buses, they are spaced out more than six feet on the buses, they wear their mask on the bus. We take their temperature when they either get on the bus,or if they come by car when they arrive at school. So all of our protocols are in place.
Miller: Do you think all the parents that need to know about these services are aware of them and have been using them and having the kids come to school in these small groups?
Fields: Yes, what our schools are doing is they are identifying the students that they've determined need the intervention for whatever reason, if it's remediation, if it's special education services, speech therapy services, whatever. And then they are individually reaching out to the parents. We've had a great response.
Miller: Anything else you would just like to add, maybe just how you see it, managing a school district in these times?
Fields: I just want our community members across Kentucky to realize that our teachers, our secretaries, our custodians, bus drivers, our cafeteria workers, they are so valuable to the growth and well-being of our young people in the state. We know that nurses and doctors are heroes during this time, and I think our educators are really big heroes during this time and really stepped up. I just don't want people to forget that.