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Staff at Boone County Schools concerned district's return to in-person teaching isn't safe right now

Posted at 6:11 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 18:19:55-05

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. — Staff at Boone County Schools, which returned to full in-person learning on Monday despite the county's red status, are concerned about safety in the classrooms.

The district returned to in-person teaching from a hybrid model, while the county still indicates a high degree of COVID-19 spread and incidences. The district cited a need to return to in-person class to maintain students' education, despite the rising cases and hospitalizations throughout the region.

"We still have classrooms with 28 children in them," said Karen Wills, a collaborative special education teacher at Randall Cooper High School. "There's no way you can have a six-foot distance. Over 40 times today I had to ask students to put their masks up over their nose, so yes I am afraid."

Willis said she and other teachers want to teach to their fullest ability, but they want to be able to do it safely and are concerned for their own health as students returned to the classroom.

"I’m almost 65 years old," she said. "We have teachers with other underlying health issues. So it feels like we’re not being listened to."

A nurse at the district, who is also a Boone County Schools parent, said they are also concerned. WCPO has chosen to allow this employee to remain anonymous out of concern for his or her job.

"My son’s classroom is doing round tables with four to a table and they’re all facing each other," the source said.

The Kentucky Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard shows Boone County averages more than 40 new cases of the disease a day per 100,00 people. In a letter to the district, superintendent Matthew Turner said the district reported 30 positive cases last week out of the district's 23,500 staff and students.

"We see the struggles of our students and we see that growing and we’re really concerned about going through the school year and our students being able to be prepared to graduate from high school, be prepared to move on to the next level," said Turner.

The letter also acknowledged that their choice to return to in-person teaching went against guidance from the Kentucky Department of Public Health, which recommends districts in counties with more than 25 new cases per 100,000 people move to fully virtual schooling.

"We want to be in the classroom," said Wills. "We want it to be done safely. Thanksgiving is coming up, then what happens?"