By Jacob Perkins
Paris Independent Superintendent Stephen McCauley invited Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass to virtually tour the district’s Greyhound Academy on Dec. 16, Glass’ first tour of a Kentucky school district since beginning his tenure with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) in September.
The Greyhound Academy is a fully remote learning experience for all students in the Paris Independent school district and is used whenever school is closed for safety or unexpected emergencies, according to the district’s website.
During his tour, Glass learned about the traits of characters in the book “Snowflake Bunny” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin in Sydney Goyette’s 4th-grade class; discussed groups who were most affected by western expansion in Samantha Brown’s 8th-grade social studies class; and examined roller coaster designs in Colleen White’s 10th-grade science course. Afterward, Glass said he commends Paris Independent’s efforts to ensure continued learning for its students.
“It’s really impressive,” he said. “There is a clear effort in Paris to keep learning going, to keep kids engaged. In spite of the challenges we have, staff and students are working hard and that’s great to see.”
Prior to Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order that suspended in-person instruction in November amid high numbers of new cases of COVID-19, Paris Independent implemented a hybrid model of instruction, teaching students both in person and virtually through the Greyhound Academy.
The district of just under 700 students is able to provide this synchronous method of instruction due to being a 1:1 district, one Chromebook to one student, McCauley said.
“We’re a city district that has pretty good internet access,” he explained. “We don’t have those dead spots that some of our county districts might have, so we’ve been able to maintain.”
Since being fully virtual, Paris has been able to provide targeted services to small groups of students based on KDE-issued guidance that details appropriate measures districts should consider when bringing small groups of students into the building.
The targeted services have been beneficial for Paris Independent students because it allows them to have either one-on-one or small group interactions, said Joe Matthews, principal of Paris High School.
Glass said the time Paris Independent has spent with students in the building plays a role in the success the district is having because it provided an opportunity to establish relationships with students.
As for reopening in January, McCauley said the district will wait for further clarification from Beshear, but believes Paris could handle bringing students back into the classroom.
Paris Independent is currently slated to return to in-person instruction on Jan. 11, the earliest date recommended by Beshear, though McCauley said this is to buy the district more time to develop reopening plans once additional information is made available.
“We’ve been adapting every week and every day it feels like,” he said. “Our principals have been phenomenal in that and the leadership has been awesome. Our teachers have stepped up. We’re going to roll and make the best of it.”