(The Center Square) – Kentucky’s largest school district has a plan to reopen schools for in-classroom learning. However, there’s no date set yet for that to happen.
Officials from Jefferson County Public Schools held a virtual town hall meeting Thursday evening to detail what schools will look like when they reopen, with Superintendent Marty Pollio and other JCPS staff answering questions from parents, students and employees.
Students in JCPS schools, which covers Louisville, have been going to school virtually for nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“We've spent hours and hours and hours working on this, building this plan, and we're ready to go,” Pollio said Thursday. “We are ready to do this.”
The plan requires approval from the district’s Board of Education, and according to media reports, members are mixed on whether to proceed with allowing students back in schools.
"Honestly, there will always be questions because no one can anticipate every possible scenario," member Sarah McIntosh told The Courier Journal. The former teacher said she expects to vote in favor of a return plan.
Member Linda Duncan told WHAS-11 she would vote against because she wants to see infection rates fall.
Kentucky made teachers a priority group for COVID-19 vaccinations, and according to some estimates, may be the first to state to finish vaccinating educators and school staff. In a tweet earlier this week, Gov. Andy Beshear said a teacher told him it will help them get back in the classroom.
“We're working on making that happen through density control, masking, proper ventilation and community mitigation,” the governor said.
While teachers have received the vaccine, The Courier Journal reports that a majority of teachers who responded to a Jefferson County Teachers Association survey preferred staying online. The JCTA, the union representing teachers, has reached a memorandum of understanding with the district that gives teachers "a greater voice," according to a tweet from JCTA president Brent McKim, about reopening.
That reluctance has led to comments from some Louisville-area Republican lawmakers who want to see classrooms reopen sooner rather than later.
“I understand all Jefferson County teachers will have the vaccine - second shot by the end of February,” state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, said responding to a person urging schools to wait. “Would you not agree that mid-March would be a reasonable start date?”
The questions surrounding when JCPS will reopen come as other districts in the state have started, at least in part, their reopening plans or will do so soon.
Fayette County Public Schools, the state’s second-largest district, is set to allow in-person instruction on Monday for students in kindergarten through second grade, according to the district’s website.
It also anticipates allowing students in third to fifth grades starting on March 3. Students in sixth grade on up will continue online learning. The district expects to review and confirm that on Tuesday.
In communities surrounding Louisville, including Hardin County, Oldham County and Shelby County, public school students, including middle and high schoolers, have returned to classrooms on at least a rotating hybrid basis, which half of the class goes to school and the other participates virtually. Those students then rotate when they’re in school or online.
Similarly, private schools in Louisville are also offering in-class options as well.
The JCPS plan would be similar where elementary students go five days a week, and middle and high school students will go under a hybrid schedule. Online options will continue to be available as well.