Computer technicians unload Chrome Books that will be given to students to take home at McCreary Elementary School in Stearns, Ky., Thursday, August 13, 2020. The county is planning that high school students will receive a Chromebook to take home for their classes and elementary school students will take home Kindles. The county was able to purchase more chromebooks to help transition to online classes this fall.
The first day of virtual learning was pushed back in an Eastern Kentucky school district because it couldn’t make good on its promise to provide a computer to every child.
Knott County Schools planned to start online Monday, but a delay in a shipment of laptops caused Superintendent Kim King to reschedule the start of distance learning to Sept. 8.
Earlier this month, Gov. Andy Beshear asked schools to postpone bringing students into classrooms until Sept. 28 to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Schools in rural Kentucky have scrambled to ensure all students, including those with unreliable internet connections, can learn virtually. Most have promised to provide every student a device.
“I cannot with a clear conscience begin school next Monday, Aug. 24 knowing that many households will not have the needed devices to complete their virtual assignments,” King said in a video posted on Facebook Wednesday.
In an interview Monday, King said she knew Knott County schools needed to have a one-to-one device for every student before school started. She is hoping the delayed shipment of devices will be delivered in time for the new start date, but the county is preparing all the devices it currently owns just in case.
Last spring, Peggy Elkins, a parent to three Knott County students, said her kids struggled. She said her sixth grader, seventh grader and 11th-grader felt like they weren’t going to pass, though they did.
She said her children need hands-on work to learn.
“If they are not doing that, then they won’t do the work,” Elkins said.
One of her students had a device in the spring, and the others used paper work packets. Elkins has internet but it is slow, often causing videos to buffer.
Elkins said those who don’t have internet will be further behind.
King said all school-issued devices will have filtered internet access and programs needed to learn already installed. Wi-Fi access will be provided in all Knott County schools parking lots and the central office parking lot.
Elkins works during school hours and has to help her three kids with schoolwork when she returns.
“I do what I can when I’m home,” she said. “They do what they can to through the day and then I help them.”
Knott County teachers will have a virtual office hour Monday through Thursday to answer questions from parents, King said.
Lee County Schools started virtual instruction Monday. Pike County Schools, Henry County Schools, Martin County Schools and McCreary County Schools are some of the schools set to begin virtually later this week.
Liz Moomey is a Report for America Corps member covering Eastern Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader. She is based in Pikeville.