The Jefferson County Board of Education is drawing closer to a vote on whether to return to the classroom in-person this spring. School buildings have been closed since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio is eyeing the third week of this March for a phased-in return, beginning with elementary schools.
All families will have the option to remain fully virtual. For those considering the in-person option, school will look very different from what students are used to.
Here are the most important things to know about the plan as you make your decision.
Learning Model & Social Distancing
Elementary Schools: Elementary schools will be operating on a regular five-day week schedule for the in-person option. The district is hoping that the number of students choosing the virtual option will allow students to spread out in the classroom more than usual.
Middle & High School: Schools are operating on a rotating hybrid schedule for students using the in-person option. Students will be broken into an A group and a B group based on the first letter of their last name. Group A will attend school in-person on Monday and Tuesday, while group B is remote. Wednesday is a remote learning day for all students. JCPS says teachers will use Wednesdays for planning, small groups and individualized support for students. On Thursday and Friday group B is in person, while A is remote. The district says schools will try to put students in the same household but with different last names in the same group. But families must reach out and make this request.
The district says the rotating hybrid model, along with some students choosing the fully virtual option, should significantly reduce the number of students in each class, and allow for more space between desks.
Points of Possible Concern: JCPS’ plan does not require six feet between students in the classroom, the distance health experts say prevents the spread of COVID-19. The CDC says schools should require a full six feet in communities with “substantial” to “high” transmission. Jefferson County is considered a high transmission area. School leaders have admitted that achieving six feet won’t be possible in some settings, especially in elementary schools with high shares of families who choose the in-person option.
Screening, Temperature Checks, & Quarantine
Students and staff will have their temperatures checked upon arrival. Students and staff should stay home or will be sent home if they have any of the following:
- -a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- -cough (or new/unusual cough for those with asthma)
- -vomiting or diarrhea
- -new rash
- -exposure to a COVID-19 case (under quarantine)
Students who present symptoms at school will be sent to an isolation area and wait to be picked up, or a staff person will take them home if necessary. Sick students will not be sent home on the bus.
If a family discovers their child has COVID-19, they must notify the school’s designated “Healthy At School Officer.” The school will then notify the district, who will notify the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.
If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at the school, the district will work with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness to determine who needs to quarantine. This will depend on the time spent together and the distance between individuals. Students are usually quarantined for 14 days. Staff who are within 90-days of becoming fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine.
Students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 will likely have to quarantine for 10 days after the start of symptoms or first positive COVID-19 test.
JCPS will be running its regular bus routes, and buses are allowed to be at full capacity. Students are supposed to stay six feet apart at the bus stop, but are allowed to sit two or even three to a seat on the bus if necessary. Students must wear masks on the bus, unless they have a medical waiver. By sending a student to the bus stop, a parent or guardian is attesting that their child does not have a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or any symptoms of COVID-19. The bus driver is supposed to scan for symptoms as students board.
Possible Points of Concern: Originally state health experts wanted to reduce bus capacity to allow only one student every row. But the guidance was changed after district superintendents told the state this would not be possible. In addition, some buses will have monitors to make sure students keep their masks on and help scan for symptoms, but many will not. JCPS is also facing a shortage of about 153 bus drivers, which could make buses more crowded. But officials say they are trying to fill the positions with retired drivers.
Meal Service & Common Areas
For virtual-only students, JCPS says meal service will continue similar to the curbside service that has been offered this school year.
In-person students are to be kept six feet apart during breakfast and lunch service. This may be accomplished by reducing the number of students in the cafeteria and putting students in classrooms or other areas to eat. Markings can be placed on the floor to remind students where to stand while in line.
In common areas such as hallways and lobbies, students must maintain a six-foot distance. Signage and floor markings will help remind students to keep their space. Arrival and dismissal times will be staggered to keep fewer students in the hallways at a time.
Masks, PPE, Cleaning & Hygiene
All students and staff will be required to wear a mask at all times, unless they are eating or drinking, or unless they have a medical waiver. JCPS is providing two cloth masks and two disposable masks per student at the beginning of the reopening. Additional masks will be available if students are in need.
Specialized personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided to staff who work with students who have disabilities and require assistance for toileting and other health needs.
Hand sanitizer is to be available throughout the building, including in each classroom.
Staff will be expected to clean high-contact surfaces throughout the day with disinfecting wipes or battery-powered sprayers.
Possible Points of Concern: JCPS is facing a shortage of custodians, though officials say they believe they can fill all the positions needed in time. This could put more responsibility on teachers to undertake disinfecting, and some are worried about how the time needed for cleaning will be built into the daily schedule.
The virtual option will remain available to all students. The virtual academy will be school-based, and will remain very similar to the current instructional offering during nontraditional instruction (NTI). It will not be the case that students who are in the virtual academy will be watching a live-streamed version of the in-person offering. Students will use Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams for lessons specifically for remote students as they have been doing in NTI this school year.
Any class offered in-person must also be offered virtually, including Advanced Placement classes. JCPS says Gifted and Talented programs, Exceptional Child Education services and English as a Second Language services will also be provided.
Will My Teacher Change?
It is very likely no matter which option you choose, some of your child’s teachers will change, though officials say they are trying to minimize this. Some teachers who are at high-risk of COVID-19 complications, or who have family members who are at high-risk, will be teaching virtual-only students. Meanwhile some teachers will only be teaching students who select the in-person option.
Here is where you can make your selection. Families will likely have until the end of the month to finalize their selection. But a cut-off date has not been set.
The decision on whether to allow the in-person option is up to the Jefferson County Board of Education. They have not yet set a date for a vote.