Local schools delay start dates due to COVID-19

Local school districts have made the decision to push back the start of classes for the 2020-2021 school year.

Waylon Allen, superintendent of Middlesboro Schools, issued a statement announcing that his district will start classes virtually on Sept. 8, with in-person classes set to start Sept. 28.

“At tonight’s board meeting, several decisions were made concerning the beginning of this year,” Allen said Tuesday evening. “Please know that the board does not make these decisions without serious deliberation and thoughtfulness.  School will now begin for students on Sept. 8. All students will begin the year through virtual learning. Students who choose to attend in person will be able to return on Sept. 28.  I know many of you wanted to begin with in-person instruction; however, we are currently in a situation that requires sacrifice on the part of many. The health and safety of our students is of the utmost importance to our board members.”

Allen added that he is certain the district’s staff will perform in the face of adversity and provide the best possible learning environment for the students.

“I also know the hours you have spent worrying about our students and how you will provide what they need as school begins in a very different way than it has before.  I appreciate each and every one of you and believe that together we can rise above these circumstances to make virtual learning the best it can be,” he said.

Middlesboro Schools were slated to open Aug. 5, but Allen requested a delay until Aug. 25, which was in effect prior to this week’s announcement of the September start dates.

Pineville Superintendent Russell Thompson said his district has also decided to delay the start of classes. Pineville Schools will now start Sept. 1 with options for in-person or virtual learning. Originally, the district was planning to start Aug. 25.

“The board voted to push it back a week,” Thompson said. “We will be offering our regular options as planned. We have a five-day virtual option, we have a five-day in-person option, and we also have a blended option where you could be here two days and be virtual three days.”

Thompson added that options for the blended program would include students attending classes in person on Monday and Tuesday, and then doing virtual learning Wednesday through Thursday, as well as the option to do virtual learning Monday through Wednesday, and then attending classes in person on Thursday and Friday.

“I know we’re one of the few districts around that are coming back in person, but our board felt that was best for the education and community, and for our students and staff. We’re going to try to do that to the best of our ability,” Thompson said.

Bell County Superintendent Tom Gambrel also reported that his district will delay classes, starting with distance learning on Sept. 8, while in-person learning is planned to begin Sept. 28.

Gambrel originally reported that his district had planned to return to classes Aug. 6, but he requested a delay until Aug. 25.