LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – In less than 24 hours, school buses will start and students will be back in class for their first day of school on Wednesday.

The past two years have been heavily focused on precautions around the pandemic, but Superintendent Demetrus Liggins said they’re ‘hoping for a normal year’ and shifting their focus to new initiatives.

“Everyone’s excited to have our kids back in school. A school building isn’t just quite the same without the kids there,” Liggins said.

Liggins said Fayette county schools can now focus on its new strategic plan called ‘A New Way Forward.’

“The first initiative being student success, second initiative being equity, diversity and inclusion and belonging,” Liggins said. The district will also be placing an emphasis on students’ and teachers’ mental health.

‘One of the things we realized during the pandemic was that so many of our students have socio-emotional needs that they were needing help with, and we did not pay as much attention to our staff who also needed support,” Liggins said.

One reoccurring policy is that the allotted amount for non-traditional Instruction days has been reset to 10.

However, one notable change is that food costs increased by 14%, and it affects only 36 schools in the district. As for the rest of the schools, Liggins said, “Due to the majority of the students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, 100 percent of the students eat for free, and so that’s at 43 of our 79 campus sites.”

As for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Dr. Liggins said they’re sticking to their ‘Either way is ok’ policy.

‘We’re not requiring masks, but they’re highly highly encouraged,” Liggins said.

Additionally, the outbreak of monkeypox has some parents concerned, but Liggins has some news of relief, “You don’t get it from shaking hands or fist bumping, so we’re much less likely to have it spread at the school.”

In terms of staffing shortages, Liggins said the district is fortunate. All bus routes are covered, and school resource officer positions have a three-year plan.

‘To ensure by the end of three years, that we will have one full-time police officer at every single one of our campus’,” Liggins said.

Liggins said the district is still looking to fill what he calls their “high needs” positions which are for math and science at the high school level, as well as special education. Liggins said some of those positions will actually receive additional stipends because they’re difficult to fill.

To apply go to the Fayette County Public Schools website.