Education

Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Marty Pollio gave his reopening recommendations Thursday during his State of the District address. 

Later tonight, the seven-member Jefferson County Board of Education will vote on whether to accept the proposal and reopen classrooms to students for the first time in more than a year.

“This has definitely been a learning experience for all of us,” Pollio said. “We’re not doctors, we’re educators. We are not epidemiologists, but we do save lives in different ways.”

Pollio said he’d like to see a phased return to in-person learning, starting “by welcoming back some of our youngest learners.”

Here are his suggestions:

  • Kindergarten through second grade comes back to school March 17. 
  • Third through fifth grade returns March 18. 
  • Early childhood education resumes in-person learning March 22. 

Elementary school students would have class five days a week. 

Middle and high school students would come back April 5, after spring break. They would follow a hybrid design where students attend classes in person two days a week on a rotating schedule based on last names

All schools will be required to follow state and local COVID safety guidelines.

There will also continue to be a remote learning option available to all JCPS students, with “access to assignments and live instruction” similar to how non-traditional instruction, or NTI, has been administered the past year.

“This is a defining moment for us, a moment that we have worked towards since we closed our buildings last March. This is also a unifying moment for us. It’s the time we come together and support our students, like we never have before,” Pollio said.

The proposal would give middle and high school students about eight weeks in the classroom before the summer break. Elementary school students would have about nine weeks. 

Some of that time period will be devoted to administering K-PREP, the federally mandated standardized tests that are typically given every spring. 

Last year the U.S. Department of Education waived Kentucky’s testing requirement because of the pandemic. But this year, the Biden administration said they expect states to move forward with testing. 

Pollio said he is uncertain how much of the short time students have in the classroom will be devoted to testing.

“We’ll be waiting for information from the Kentucky Department of Education,” he said. “And our goal will be to have our students engaged in meaningful learning as much as possible.”

Pollio’s recommendation comes as the district is facing mounting state-level pressure to reopen. 

Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order this week recommending all districts create or expand in-person options. And on Wednesday, state House lawmakers greenlit a bill requiring districts to offer at least two days a week of in-person learning to all students by March 29. The measure would need approval in the Senate to become final.

Asked whether he thinks he has the four votes needed to approve his plan, Pollio said he didn’t “know for sure.” Several board members have expressed uncertainty about the safety of returning to the classroom.

The board meets tonight at 6 p.m. You can watch the meeting here.

Pollio Talks Equity, Digital Divide

During his State of the District address, Pollio also broached the topic of racial equity, which he said would be top of mind as JCPS returns to the classroom.

“We will build structures that help us to achieve true racial equity across our district, from who we hire, to how our students see themselves represented in the curriculum,” he said.

The superintendent added that the district also hopes to address the “digital divide,” bringing more equity to remote learning and ensuring that all students have the resources they need.

A recent WFPL data analysis showed significant disparities between low-income and more privileged students when it comes to online learning.  

 

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.
Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.