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Jefferson County Board of Education approves amended reopening plan in 4-3 vote

Overall, 60% of students in the district have chosen an in-person option if it becomes available, though each school's numbers vary.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Jefferson County Board of Education voted to approve an amended reopening plan for Jefferson County Public Schools in a 4-3 vote. The decision came with some changes to Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio's reopening plan presented during his State of the District Thursday.

While not all board members voted in favor of the plan, they unanimously approved an amendment which would include a hybrid schedule for elementary schools, rather than the 5-day week Pollio suggested. The change came after board members expressed concern over the number of children that would be in classrooms.

"Now that we have these safety measures in place, it's time for us to do what's in their best interest," Pollio said. "We’ve built a plan at JCPS but it will take all of us to make this a success."

Pollio recommended kindergarten through second grade students return on March 17, while third through fifth graders would return March 18.

There will still be a virtual learning option that looks like the current NTI model for students and families who are not ready to return.

Pollio suggested middle and high school students should return on a hybrid schedule after spring break. Under the board's amendment, elementary schools will have a hybrid option as well.

Starting April 5, middle and high schoolers with A-K last names would be in-person every Monday and Tuesday. Students with L-Z last names would then be in-person every Thursday and Friday. Everyone will be remote on Wednesdays for deep cleaning.

JCPS district and school administrators have been working to create a safe return plan, which includes one-way hallways, distanced desks and social distancing in cafeterias.

Elementary students will stay in one room for all classes aside from lunch and gym, while middle and high schoolers will move between classrooms. Elementary students will also get two wellness breaks throughout the day, and will have scheduled bathroom breaks.

The district has obtained four million masks, has spent millions of dollars on PPE, and will follow guidelines set by the state and CDC. There will be a process for contract tracing and health and safety screenings.

Pollio highlighted that healthy and safety is the most important thing in a return to school. But once kids are back in school, there is a lot that needs to be done to make up for lost learning.

That back to school plan is also going to include summer learning for a minimum of 30,000 students. The district wants to offer some services to any student, but also be targeted.  

"Without a doubt, we’re going to have to be very intentional about the students who need it most and really make sure that we open facilities, our school and community facilities, this summer to address as many children as possible," Pollio said.

Pollio mentioned this will not just be a summer plan to get students back on track, it will take years to fill in the educational gaps this pandemic and being out of the building has created. 

Overall, 60% of students in the district have chosen an in-person option if it becomes available, though each school's numbers vary.

During the State of the District address, Pollio also spoke about some of the successes from the past year. 

That includes getting 50,0000 Chromebooks to students to learn at home and getting more than a million meals to students. 

2020 was also the year the Kentucky Department of Education decided it did not need to put JCPS under state management.

JCPS worked for nearly two years on correcting 276 items identified in earlier audits. The newest audit cites only 27 recommendations.

Pollio also used the address to look forward, and wants to increase equity by proposing a change to the student assignment program.

Under the new proposal, middle and high school students in West Louisville would have two options, to go to a local school, or a school that is farther away. 

As part of this proposal, JCPS would build a new middle school, and potentially a high school in West Louisville. 

This story may be updated.

RELATED: Gov. Andy Beshear announces new executive order requesting schools expand in-person learning; JCPS expected to vote Thursday

RELATED: A look inside: JCPS classrooms ready for students, if the board votes to go back

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