Superintendents in Ky. balance keeping students in classrooms with pandemic concerns

Superintendents in Ky. balance keeping students in classrooms with pandemic concerns
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 10:34 PM EST
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HARRISON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - In 2020 in the beginning of the pandemic the Harrison County school district was one of the first to shut down school.

Like so many others across the state, the district has been through remote learning, seen a return to in-person learning, has asked students and staff to mask up and through it all has tried to weather the storm as best it could. In late February, the district went mask optional. allowing for a more normal return to the school day.

Every day there are decisions to be made for Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Harry Burchett. As the head of the Harrison County School district, he oversees nearly 3,000 students and their learning. In the last two years, though, he himself has been schooled on learning in a pandemic.

“I’ve never experienced anything quite like what we have been through in the last couple of years,” said Dr. Harry Burchett.

We met with Dr. Burchett in early February, at the time the omicron surge was causing COVID cases to rise. For him, COVID has presented a real life math problem, laid out daily on a dashboard in his office that is the first thing he sees in the morning and the last thing he sees at night.

“I look at this on a daily basis to predict how many staff we will have out on the next day,” said Burchett.

Solving this problem doesn’t come with a neat answer on paper.

Dr. Burchett, like so many superintendents across the state, have been trying to keep students in the classroom and learning, while also dealing with a high number of quarantines and both students and staff out sick. He tracks it all daily, keeping up with every case recorded in the district. Burchett and WEDCO Health Director Dr. Crystal Miller communicate daily.

COVID has tried to disrupt every part of the school day.

Burchett’s district, like so many, has been hit with rising food costs, shortages in the lunchroom and keeping buses rolling hasn’t always been easy, but he credits the entire district for getting to this point.

“You know it’s really been a team effort to make sure we can prioritize and have in-person learning every day, but again we have to look at the data and we don’t know what we are going to have the very next day or from one night to the next morning,” said Burchett.

And he applauds those who have stepped up to fill in the gaps so students never go without.

“Our school level leadership, they are stepping up and filling in whatever role that is necessary if they have to jump into the lunchroom to help serve food or help with custodial work, or anything that needs to be done and all of our people have stepped forward to do that,” said Burchett.

Like all districts, Harrison County has learned to be flexible navigating a pandemic where there is no grade to be given.

“Students want to be in school, I can tell you that,” said Dr. Burchett.

And for Harrison County, it’s been about making sure that students and staff there have been taken care of.

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