The latest surge in COVID-19 has fueled staffing shortages at Jefferson County Public Schools, leaving students without enough teachers to adequately cover classes.
JCPS canceled classes Monday and will move to virtual learning the rest of the week in an effort to reduce shortages driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Superintendent Marty Pollio said school officials noted a sharp increase in staff absences last week. They continued to monitor the numbers over the weekend until Sunday when they decided there wasn’t enough staff to cover all the district’s classrooms in person.
“It was really becoming a difficult… a beyond difficult situation for our schools and our staff to hold classes in a safe and efficient manner,” Pollio said during a press conference Monday morning.
Nearly 700 JCPS staff had tested positive or were under a 10-day quarantine as of Monday morning. More than 4,500 students had either tested positive or were under quarantine.
JCPS schools will return to in-person learning on Jan. 18, giving staff and students 11 days to clear isolation and quarantine.
In the meantime, JCPS will continue to provide curbside meal distribution at select schools on Tuesday and Thursday. The district will also continue sports and other extracurricular activities so long as staffing is available.
Students who do not have the materials needed to continue with virtual learning for the remainder of the week have Monday to connect with administration and prepare for the week ahead, Pollio said.
School districts have to carefully choose when to move to virtual learning because of a bill Kentucky lawmakers passed last year that limits districts to 10 days of so-called non-traditional instruction, or NTI.
Once those days run out, every additional day in which JCPS has to close due to staffing shortages will have to be made up at the end of the year, Pollio said.
“I will not push and I am not looking for unlimited NTI days. We want our kids, we need our kids in schools, but we do need to have some flexibility especially over the next three weeks,” Pollio said.