Trimble County Public Schools had hoped to start face-to-face classes later this month, but students may not be back in school until at least mid-October following new recommendations from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Beshear made a recommendation Tuesday to postpone in-person instruction, encouraging school districts to not reconvene until Sept. 28 at the earliest. Meanwhile, Trimble County and other school districts in the Commonwealth had been working toward an Aug. 26 reopening date following Beshear’s earlier recommendation in July to start face-to-face classes about the third week of August.

Trimble originally planned to open on that date on a regular schedule with options for in-person or virtual instruction at the student and family’s choice. After conducting a survey in which 32% of students said they would choose virtual learning due to rising infection rates, the school corporation announced every Friday would be used as a non-traditional instruction (NTI) day for both virtual and in-person students to learn from home and keep in contact through online instruction.

Those plans were changed once again this week following Beshear’s announcement and a conference call between his team and TCPS administrators around 3 p.m. Tuesday. Wilcoxson said the governor told administrators that if they were to go against his recommendation to postpone school, they would need to contact both his office and the state commissioner of education to come up with an approved plan on going forward.

Although a hard decision to make as both a superintendent and parent, an emotional Wilcoxson on Tuesday said she felt compelled to follow the recommendation, adding “it only takes one child” to cause an outbreak and complicate things further.

Still, without an online approach that works better than the methods used in the spring, and connects students with staff to get them the needed support, many will continue falling behind, she said.

“My biggest concern is there are so many needs for our students, and they need to see their teachers, they need to have those relationships. We recognize all of that, and it’s just difficult to know that even though we’re doing all we possibly can, there are still so many kids that struggle,” Wilcoxson said.

Wilcoxson and other administrators spent about three hours Tuesday planning for opening under the virtual umbrella, which will utilize Google Classroom and modifications for students without easy access to the internet. Dubbed “Raider Virtual Academy,” the online learning system will be used by all students until the district potentially returns the week after fall break on Oct. 12. Those who registered to learn online this year will stay with Raider Virtual Academy through the rest of the semester.

Unlike the paper packets sent home in the spring, the online learning will allow for more interaction between classes, virtual field trips and video lessons. Other online learning, like Summit, will also be embedded into Google Classroom for access. In the case of early elementary students who need tactile activities like coloring, cutting and drawing, paper packets with those activities will be included with the online material, Wilcoxson said.

Internet access is a major issue, however, as indicated by a survey conducted by the school last month that found 22% of respondents do not have WiFi access and another 11% were unable to indicate if they had access or not.

Because of that, students without access will be able to pick up weekly USB drives containing lessons, instructional videos, resources and assignments and upload those resources to school-issued Chromebooks. Students will then complete assignments off-line and submit them when they go back to their school for the next week’s learning materials.

Students will also be able to access free WiFi at 10 hotspot locations throughout the county: Milton Christian Church, Mt. Byrd Christian Church, Milton Municipal Building, Milton Methodist Church, Maggie’s Garden & More, Providence Baptist Church, Trimble County Public Library, New Life Assembly of God, the Trimble County Board of Education office and DG Powersports.

The district will start scheduling orientation as early as Aug. 25 to get students in and show them how online materials will be accessed and submitted, Wilcoxson said. Scheduling for Chromebook distribution will begin next week.

On top of orientation and regular communication with instructors, the school district also hopes to set aside times for groups of 10 students to drop by and complete work on school grounds, which the governor permits, Wilcoxson said.

“A student might just need to get in for a couple hours, so we want to be able to support them in doing that,” she said.

Trimble County will also resume the meal plan it started last spring. Students will be able to pick up five day’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and snacks at their home school from noon to 1:30 p.m. every Friday, and meal delivery for those who qualify is available upon request. Meals from Dare to Care, a Louisville-based food bank, are also available via delivery every Wednesday starting Sept. 9 for students who qualify, according to reopening plans released by TCPS Wednesday.

Carroll County Schools will reopen on a similar schedule, according to a Facebook announcement from the district. Unlike Trimble, Beshear’s announcement did not change much for the district schedule since the Carroll County Board of Education approved Superintendent Danny Osborne’s recommendation last month to hold classes under a distance learning model for the first nine weeks.

Under a distance model, students attend classes in-person when allowed by the school district, depending on whether holding class is considered safe. When in-person classes are not permitted, students participate in distance learning primarily through Google Classroom so Carroll County was already prepared when in-person classes were be called off.

At the earliest, in-person classes will resume in late October, the district said.

“Gov. Beshear asked all school districts to delay the start of in-person classes until at least Sept. 28,” Osborne said. “The Governor’s request does not affect us here in Carroll County since we have already pushed our in-person start date beyond that point. The beginning of our school year remains Wednesday, Aug. 26 via Distance Learning.”

Plans for Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks at Carroll County are intact, and the scheduled last day for students is May 26, 2021. Free meals for students were continued into the summer and will still be provided for the fall.

“This is a very fluid situation,” Osborne said. “Our goal of creating a safe and healthy environment for our students and teachers to work and learn in, while still meeting the needs of the whole child — socially, emotionally, developmentally and academically — remains the same. Fortunately, our board members were proactive in getting in front of this recommendation, which provided us the necessary time to create an effective plan to address these needs through Distance Learning or Virtual School.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Trimble’s Board of Education appointed McKenzie Harper, former District 2 representative, to District 4 following the resignation of District 4 representative Billy Spegal, whose family has relocated to North Carolina. Harper resigned from her District 2 seat at the July board meeting due to moving out of that district into District 4. District 2 is now vacant.