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'There are so many unknowns with this virus': Pollio recommends JCPS remote start for fall semester

If passed, JCPS schools will use remote learning for the first six weeks of the semester beginning August 25. The school board votes on a plan July 21.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio announced his recommendation that the district start the 2020-21 school year remotely during a press conference Thursday.

"I am in alignment with our board members, there are so many unknowns with this virus," Pollio said. 

Pollio said he will present the plan to begin the semester remotely July 21 in the Board of Education's meeting. The remote start will be for the first six weeks of the semester. The plan that will be presented also supports a later start to the semester on August 25.

"The risk is just too great right now to return to in-person classes," Pollio said. 

If the plan passes, JCPS will then meet with state officials to reevaluate a return to in-person classes in September. 

"We do need to see declining numbers," Pollio said.

Kelly Clark, a parent with children in the school system, is relieved her kids won't be back in the building. But she feels the district should reconsider their suggested time frame, and have kids learn from home until December.

"Right now there are truly lives at stake and it's our kids lives, I don't want to toss my kid out there for an experiment," Clark said. "I really hope they reconsider and we wait until January, more time to think and plan things safely cannot be a bad thing."

Some students, like Samuel Lucas, don't want to miss a moment of their senior year. He says he feels these safety precautions aren't necessary.

"Like this is supposed to be the best year of my life and if I can't see anybody that's not how it's going to work," Lucas said. "I feel like it's being blown out of proportion, I'm not worried I feel like we should go back to school."

The recommendation comes a few days after he held a virtual town hall where parents and teachers voiced their concerns about the upcoming school year.

Parents said they were unsure how the district could follow guidelines, while the Jefferson County Teachers Association said JCPS teachers have overwhelmingly spoken against starting the year with in-person instruction. A majority of the district's board members have also announced support for a virtual start to the semester. 

Pollio will present two options to the board. One will offer in-person learning, with students and teachers back in the classroom, while also giving families the option to choose a virtual academy with kids staying at home. The other would be only non-traditional instruction throughout the fall semester. 

Now that the recommendation for a full NTI for the fall semester has been made, the JCPS Board of Education will vote on the measure on July 21. 

In his press conference Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said that he understands the challenges that come with a commitment to NTI learning, but said any district that prioritizes safety has his full support. 

The board will also vote to push the start of school to August 25. Earlier this month, Dr. Pollio, the teachers' union, and parents have all supported pushing back school by at least two weeks, to give teachers time to train and more time to observe state COVID-19 data. 

As of now, the first day of school for JCPS is scheduled for August 12.

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