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JCPS board passes 'Test to Stay' at rescheduled meeting

The original board meeting Tuesday was derailed by a shouting match over school resources officers (SROs) during the public comment portion.

Fast Facts: 

  • JCPS Test to Stay protocol starts Oct. 17
  • JCPS Test to Play protocol starts Nov. 1
  • Board approved $200 bonus for all JCPS employees vaccinated by Dec. 1

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) became the latest district to approve a Test to Stay model Thursday. 

In an effort to keep kids and teachers in the classroom, students and staff exposed to COVID-19 at school will be able to get tested every night before school for seven calendar days.

If those tests are negative and they are not symptomatic, they can attend school in person the following day instead of having to quarantine.

The board approved changes to the district's COVID-19 safety plan Thursday afternoon in a special meeting, which was called after Tuesday's regular meeting came to an abrupt end because of an unruly crowd. 

Thursday's meeting did not include public comment and was held at the VanHoose Education Center.

"I firmly believe the more tests we give, the more vaccinations we give, the better off we are at keeping our students in school," JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said. 

Pollio said as of 2 p.m. Thursday, 1,156 students and 29 staff were in quarantine because of COVID-19 exposures. 

Other Kentucky districts seeing success with Test to Stay protocols

Oldham County Health Department Director Matt Rhodes said Test to Stay isn't a perfect model for preventing all virus transmission, but it can be very effective if the districts follow strict testing guidelines and require universal masking. 

It also ensures kids will be learning in person as much as possible, which Rhodes said this past year and a half has proved to be vital for kids' overall well-being.

The CDC hasn't issued recommendations on Test to Stay models because there's not enough evidence available yet to prove they help slow virus transmission, but districts throughout Kentucky have already started adopting them. 

Oldham County Schools rolled out their program on Sept. 8, and already, the district said it's helped keep 2,245 kids in school. 

"We heard from the Oldham County School Board and the school district itself that there was bona fide and documented learning loss through the last year and we wanted to do everything that we could to partner with the school district to try to mitigate and minimize learning loss this school year," Rhodes said. 

JCPS also adopted a Test to Play model.

Starting Nov. 1, all students participating in sports and extracurriculars will need to get weekly COVID-19 tests, regardless of vaccination status. Board members said the model got a lot of push-back from parents. Some said they feel it'll be too expensive to test that many kids that frequently.

Pollio said the district is using state and federal grants to pay for both programs and is contracting the testing out so it doesn't impact district staffing. 

Once winter sports get going, Pollio said he feels surveillance testing will be necessary to keep schools open since events are hosted indoors.

"Anything that draws away or increases numbers where staff is quarantined really puts at jeopardy us staying in school right now," Pollio said. 

Pollio acknowledged testing equity was a big issue they had to find a solution to when putting together their Test to Stay and Test to Play models. 

He said they're opening more testing sites, will have testing available once a week at every school in the district and are rolling out a mobile testing program to ensure kids have options to get daily and weekly testing, should they need it. 

JCPS employees vaccinated by Dec. 1 will get $200 bonus

The school board also approved $200 incentive payments for all JCPS employees that are vaccinated by Dec. 1, 2021. 

The Kentucky Department of Education will foot $100 of the bill. 

JCPS is matching that, so employees will get a total of $200. Full- and part-time employees will be eligible for the payments. 

They must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1 and worked at the district between July 1, 2021 and Dec. 1, 2021.

The board also approved classified employees to serve as emergency substitute teachers for the current school year. If called on to fill in, those employees will get paid an extra $6 an hour.

Shouting match ends Tuesday's JCPS board meeting

The original meeting held Tuesday at Central High School was derailed during the public comment portion. While the purpose of the meeting was to discuss "Test to Stay," a shouting match ensued over student resource officers (SROs) in schools.

The district's board took a five-minute recess with members leaving the stage, hoping things would de-escalate. Moments later, the school auditorium was evacuated and some who were in the audience went outside of the school and held a protest. 

RELATED: 'Test to Stay' program could reduce number of quarantines in JCPS

Board members did return to the stage, but once they were back in session, a motion was put forth to adjourn the meeting at the advice of law enforcement. Ultimately, doors were shut and people went home without any further public response from the school board.

On Wednesday, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron voiced his thoughts on school resource officers.

"We've got a serious challenge in Jefferson County and if we can put officers in our schools to maintain safety then I'm all for that," he said.

RELATED: JCPS Board meeting ends abruptly after shouting match during public comment period

RELATED: 'Test to Stay' program could reduce number of quarantines in JCPS

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