KEYS - The Keys Public School Board of Education met on Monday, when members discussed COVID-19 procedures and athletic plans, and gave updates on the school.

As of now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending two weeks of quarantining before students return to school. According to Keys Elementary School Principal Tami Woods, KPS permits students to come back after 10 days.

Some teachers who have been exposed to, but have not contracted, the virus have done their quarantining at the school, teaching in empty classrooms in front of a camera.

"We had a large number of kids on quarantine when we got back. We are hoping this is going to be the peak time, and we can attribute it to exposure through family gatherings," said Keys High School Principal and Athletic Director Stephen Goss.

He explained students and parents have shown a tremendous amount of maturity throughout the course of the pandemic.

"We've tried to express that if you've been sick, or been exposed to someone who has been, don't come to school," he added.

According to Goss, many in-person students have done a significant amount of school virtually because they have voluntarily opted to study at home on days they feel mildly sick, or if they feel like they could have been exposed to someone with the virus.

"Because they've been doing that, we've been able to keep school open," said Goss.

Keys schools have always taken their final semester exams before the winter break, but because so many were in quarantine, the high school decided to allow them to take their exams when they returned.

"We've never done that before, but we decided to do that because our staff has had to be flexible," said Goss.

These precautions have been successful, as infection rates at the schools are low.

The high school has canceled all winter sports other than basketball and cheerleading. To limit exposure, cheerleaders will only be allowed to participate in home games. Only a select number of family members can attend games, so they have been livestreamed, both at home, and on the road when possible.

"It's been a learning curve going to different places. We've had good things with our livestream and other times when it doesn't work," said Goss.

He is still planning basketball games and is looking inside the county for competition to limit exposure. They have modified basketball COVID protocols, which has meant canceling games. To date, the junior varsity boys' team has played more games than either Keys varsity team.

"If we take away our schedule, and just schedule games in the county, we wouldn't play with much exposure. That seems like a win-win. That is mitigating the risk. We're going to reach out to local teams to try to pick up additional games," said Goss.

Last year, juniors were disallowed to take the ACT at the high school. To make up for it, they are waiving fees to take the standardized test for juniors and seniors.

Installation for a new turf field will take place this week, and they are requesting bids for a new intercom system, the cheapest of which is $16,000.

"There are seven classrooms at the junior high that can't hear any announcements. If there's a fire drill, they won't be able to hear anything. It's just a really old system," said Principal Woods.

Because many students left the district, the state aid was cut about $103,000. However, KPS received $625,000 from the stimulus.

KPS also won $39,200 from a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, which is designed to fund after-school STEM projects. Through the same grant, it also won an additional $5,000 for books.

What's next

The next KPS board meeting is Feb. 11 at the high school.

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