JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ky. — No date has been set for the JCPS school board to vote on whether students will return to in-person learning.
Last night at the Board of Education meeting, JCPS superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio presented a plan for reopening that includes going back to school five days a week for elementary students and a hybrid schedule for middle and high school students.
WHAS reached out to each board member to ask how they will vote, once a date for that vote is set.
As of Wednesday, Sarah McIntosh and James Craig indicated they will vote to return to school. Linda Duncan said she will vote no, saying she wants to see the county’s infection rate fall first.
Dr. Chris Kolb and Diane Porter are undecided, saying they have questions that still need to be answered before they make a decision.
Corrie Shull and Joe Marshall did not return our request for comment.
Craig acknowledged the anxiety JCPS staff has about returning to school safely. But with teachers vaccinated, the CDC releasing new guidelines on Friday, and the governor’s push to get kids back in school, the question becomes, if not now — when?
"The view that I've evolved to is that the district needs to learn how to do this and how to do this safely,” Craig said. “So that we're prepared to manage the next variant or the next mutation, or the next health crisis.”
Kolb pointed to new CDC guidelines as a base for making a decision, which cites both the ability to use mitigation strategies, like masks and distancing, and community transmission rates as major factors in being able to safely return to school.
“According to the CDC we are still in the highest risk transmission category, and they're very clear that as long as we are in this category, we can only resume in person instruction on a very limited basis and under very strict guidelines,” Kolb said.
Ultimately, the decision about whether students return to the classroom will be made by these seven board members. But the Jefferson County Teachers Association wants to have a say in the process.
JCTA sent out a survey to its members which a board of directors reviewed last week — according to that survey, 57% of teachers prefer to keep teachers virtually.
JCTA President Brent McKim said that number was likely the result of teachers having unanswered questions about a smooth and safe reopening.
Some teachers didn’t feel involved enough in the planning process to be confident enough to return right now.
“We’ve responded by working with the district all weekend to negotiate an agreement that puts in place a committee in every school to work on the reopening planning, answer questions, clarify those plans and get us to a better place,” McKim said.
Other parts of the agreement include committing the district to making sure there is enough PPE, cleaning and sanitizing supplies and custodial services available to schools, and providing special permissions to give teachers the option to teach virtually from home for employees who have people in their household who are high risk.