Education

The Jefferson County Public School system could begin a phased restart to in-person classes as soon as next month.

District superintendent Marty Pollio on Friday said he will recommend that elementary students return to classes on October 22, sixth and ninth graders return on October 29, and all other students return on November 2.

Pollio said this schedule depends on the county’s positive COVID-19 case rate dipping below 10 cases per 100,000 people. Currently, the rate is about 16 cases per 100,000 people, he said.

“There is no doubt that we want our kids back in school,” he said. “We will always keep the health and safety of our students and staff first and foremost.”

Virtual learning options would remain for people who are uncomfortable with returning to in-person learning, Pollio said. The district will begin collecting data from families following Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to gauge how many people might prefer virtual instruction.

The district is the largest in the state, with more than 103,000 students, and has been conducting classes virtually since August, when the school year began.

“I know it’s been a difficult time,” Pollio said.

State education officials released guidelines earlier this month about when districts should consider in-person learning versus keeping students at home. The guidelines are based on a seven-day average of positivity COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in each county. Based on the guidelines, districts in counties with a positivity rate between one and 10 cases per 100,000 may have in-person learning “with heightened mitigation factors.”

Pollio on Friday did not detail what those mitigation factors will be if the district opts to reopen schools in late October. 

Asked about what the district would do if in-person learning began and the positivity rate increased, Pollio said the district doesn’t want “an in and out scenario.” But he did not rule out the potential to close schools even after classes reopen.

“We are looking for consistency and trends where we know (the positivity rate) is heading in the right direction,” he said. “But this will be something we live with for a while.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.