“A Normal School Schedule”- What Does That Phrase Mean Now and How Can We Achieve It?

Reagan Reed, Staff Writer

As the nation moves progressively closer to getting more and more people vaccinated, including the teachers of Hardin County Schools, the question of when “normalcy” will return is being asked. Will public events start happening again? Is it safe to eat in restaurants? Can we start visiting our families again? 

When can we fully reopen schools again?

That’s the one that stands out the most and the one that has been circulating throughout both the student body and  the staff at Central Hardin. The question is plaguing everyone’s mind, and the curiosity of it only grows more and more every day, as we wait for the final decision from the Board of Education. In order to get an answer to the question that everyone wants to know, The Central Times sought out the superintendent Terrie Morgan. 

Of course the question foremost in everyone’s mind is whether there is a possibility of going to school five days a week this school year. Everyone wants a taste of that normalcy, and that would be the first step. While it might not seem like it since students have class fewer days, the hybrid schedule is actually very taxing on both students and teachers, and it is obvious that this is not an ideal form of education. 

“I do not anticipate staying on hybrid indefinitely,” Morgan said.  “As soon as our staff has had the opportunity to receive the 2nd dose of the vaccine, we can consider going back on a regular schedule.  Before this happens, we will have work with our principals and a committee of staff members to discuss how to do this safely.  I don’t foresee going back to NTI as we have in the past based on the decline of numbers.  In place of closing all schools, we have been closing individual schools and/or classrooms to reduce the impact.”  

There have been meetings with each school level over the proper time and procedure for returning as well. It is most likely to be around the time the teachers get the second round of their vaccine, which will be on March 4, 5, 8, and 9. This is if we go back five days a week at all.

This change in protocol, though, helps to prevent the constant closing and reopening of all schools back and forth due to an outbreak, which is better for the teachers and students mentally. Containing the outbreak at its location is relatively easier and smarter. 

Another area where there has been cause for concern over outbreaks is sports. Basketball teams in the district had to quarantine and cancel games a number of times, causing spring sports to be delayed two weeks. Parents and students have been extremely concerned about the future of spring sports, as they were unable to have a season at all last year.

“We have given dates for spring sports to begin practice, pitchers and catchers have already started.  We know that social distancing will continue as well as masks wearing,” Morgan said. This was at the beginning of February, and since spring sports have commenced practice shortly after. 

Morgan raised no concerns about spring sports being in any danger for the time being, and as long as everyone safely follows regulations, they should be able to have a successful season all around. 

As that news makes the many parents and students involved in spring sports happy, the news of returning to five days a week being a genuine possibility was taken many different ways by the student body and staff. 

The Central Times wanted to get the consensus on how students and teachers were feeling about the potential shift in schedule, so we sent out a survey to the school with questions on how they would feel if we went back. Among the 212 responses (45 staff, 166 students, and one parent), the results were a very mixed bag. 

When asked if they would want to go back to school five days a week in person this school year 56.7% said no, and only 26.4% said yes, the rest being maybe or other forms of “no,” based on conditions we would be reentering with. 

However, when asked if they would want to return to five days a week in person next school year, the results changed greatly. 56.3% said they would want to go back full time, 13.9% said they wouldn’t, and 20.2% said maybe. 

So it seems to most students just finishing out the school year with our current schedule would be what is best. We even asked the question of if people felt that they wanted to finish out the school year with the hybrid schedule, and 54.8% said yes, 26.4% said no, and 18.8% said maybe. Compared to the amount of no’s answered to the question of going back completely, though, this seems like the most favored option by students and teachers. 

There was an extra option at the end of the survey where we encouraged anyone taking it to leave a comment or statement they wanted to be known about how they feel about the situation. Lots of people were very passionate and had things they really wanted to say. There were many different arguments for each side of things. 

Some said they wanted things to go back to normal for their mental health and education. 

“I think we should get back to school five days a week. Coming to school only two or three days a week strains us mentally. We are now working less and we are used to it, so now when we get out into the real world and get a real job working more than two days a week it will be challenging unless we go back to regular five-day in person instruction.” -Rebecca Koch, senior.

“I feel like this entire school year was a complete waste of everyone’s time. Two days a week was not nearly enough time for classes to properly teach students the information that they were trying to teach. The only class I feel like I learned something in was my computer science class, and that’s only because I had to attend 5 days a week (off days we did google meets).” – Jacob Upton, senior.

Others were strongly against the idea, stressing that it’s just not safe. 

“I don’t believe that we are ready to go back to having thirty odd kids in one room that can’t be properly distanced. We might have masks but we don’t have the proper ventilation system upgrades to be safe. Kids are always taking masks down, so exposure would be an issue. I think with everyone back,we would see a rise in cases because we couldn’t possibly do all the things required to stop transmission, and kids are not vaccinated. Eating lunch would be a complete nightmare with obviously no mask time and space. We need to continue with what works right now with our hybrid schedule for the rest of this year and look at what is happening in the fall close to the start of school. A few days a week is better than all online. We have to think of others’ health and not just ours in situations like this, and I think all too many are not doing that as this pandemic drags on. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone being sick for a long time or worse, dying from this virus.” -Amy Pritt, science teacher.

“I think we should finish the school year on the hybrid schedule because our bodies are already used to that and if we go back all five days, all the students will be exhausted and won’t be able to give their best effort.” -Mckenzie Blanc, junior.

“I don’t think we should go back to having five days a week this school year. Maybe next year, but definitely not this year. We are still steadily gaining cases and are still transitioning back to the A-B schedule as is. The school simply isn’t big enough to fit everyone in classrooms socially distanced, especially when even now some classes aren’t fully socially distanced.” -Morgan Petraska, junior.

A parent who took the survey even posed the concern of how this would negatively affect spring sports if we were to go back. 

“I am very concerned as a parent of two high school age children. The choice of going back all in person will also likely negatively impact the spring sports season for which students are so hopeful.” -Shelly Dotey.

It’s a valid point to bring into consideration, as spring sports last year lost their entire season, and it was devastating for all of the athletes. If that were to happen this year once again, when we’ve made accommodations for all the other sports, that would be a really tough blow for all students involved in spring activities. 

Another issue is the conditions that must be met in order for us to safely return to full capacity. Governor Beshear made a statement on Feb. 23 stating that, according to WDRB, “School districts must continue requiring indoor face coverings, evaluate school’s ventilation systems, and reduce student density if 6 feet of social distancing can’t be achieved in places like classrooms, buses, and hallways.”

Is Hardin County Schools ready for that kind of adjustment? Do we have those kinds of resources? Do we have the ability to social distance in our larger schools like Central Hardin and East Hardin?

Governor Beshear also stated that this schedule should not be put into place until teachers have received both rounds of the vaccine. 

“At the end of the day we didn’t vaccinate our educators for nothing,” Beshear said according to WDRB. “We did this because we all know that we need some form of in-person learning.”

Of course the ultimate decision is out of the students’, teachers’, and staffs’ hands, but it is important that those in charge of making the final decisions know how everyone feels about the situation. No matter what schedule we end up being on, all we can do is try our best to keep everyone safe and healthy and keep voicing how we feel.