Employees of Trigg County Public Schools are asking for a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions about returning to school in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Local educator Brian Parker read a statement asking for input into the matter during Thursday’s school board meeting, noting as he did so that he was reading it in his capacity as the sole Kentucky Education Association representative for Trigg County employees.

Parker is the brother-in-law of the late Trigg teacher Simone Parker.

He told board members that the statement was not meant to represent his view or opinion but rather represented the views of those on whose behalf he was reading the statement.

Employees also clarified in the letter that the statement didn’t represent all employees but many of them. They noted that teaching in a pandemic is challenging and stressful, and they said their opinions went unheard when several reached out about in-person instruction.

Trigg youth returned to in-person instruction on Jan. 11.

The letter writers said Trigg County School Superintendent Bill Thorpe has adopted a role of exclusivity in responding to anyone who disagrees with his decision-making in school matters, and they noted that he is unwilling to include stakeholders in the decision-making process.

“Our district has worked very hard for many years to establish a positive school culture and a healthy climate that is based on strong relationships and open lines of communication,” they said, noting that a superintendent can’t create an effective plan to resolve issues without input from his faculty and staff.

The letter also took issue with the superintendent using a formula of within 6 feet for 15 minutes without a mask to determine close contact with another person, although both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennyrile District Health Department define close contact as within 6 feet for a cumulative 15 minutes, regardless of any mask used.

Additionally, school staff urged board members to ask for a seat at the table and to reconsider the current model of in-person instruction, opting for a virtual or a hybrid model instead.

Following Parker’s reading of the letter, Board Member Charlene Sheehan said she agreed that teachers should be part of the process, and she said they have legitimate concerns.

“I’m worried about the teachers,” said Sheehan, noting that children get over illnesses quickly.

She pointed out that district nurses also haven’t been a part of the process.

Thorpe noted that the school system is following all the health and school requirements and looking at the situation daily, and he said he believes officials are doing everything they can.

The superintendent noted during the meeting that the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed to educators on Thursday at the health department, something he said is great news.

In other business:

•The board elected officers for this year through 2023, naming the following: Jo Alyce Harper, chairman; Teresa Allen, vice-chairman; Thorpe, secretary; and Holly Greene, treasurer.

•In a separate meeting of the District Finance Corporation, the same four were nominated and elected to serve in the same capacities as district finance officers through 2023.

•Members approved a request from Thorpe to add 10 days to emergency leave retroactive Jan. 1, 2021, to ensure that no one loses any sick time. The previous leave expired Dec. 31.

•The board approved a payment authorization for renovations at the Trigg County Elementary School for $221,495.90.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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