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'She's missing the interaction': Changes JCPS parents should expect in Early Childhood Education Transportation plan

Jalynn Smith has waited anxiously to see when her daughter will return to DuValle Education Center.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is relaunching the Early Childhood Programs soon.

Superintendent Marty Pollio said all locations will open on Monday, Sept. 25. 

The Pre-K learners were due to return to classes in mid-August, but transportation problems forced the district to make sure things are right.

Pollio said there would be some changes to the program and some changes to transportation to meet the district's needs. 

The first week, Early Childhood programs will not have district transportation -- except for special education students. 

A JCPS spokesperson said Early Childhood students who have special needs and have transportation in their Individual Education Program (IEP) can receive it beginning on Sept. 25 during the 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  timeframe. All Exceptional Child Education Early Childhood students can have transportation from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 9.

She added any Early Childhood students who don't have an IEP are not eligible for transportation.

The superintendent said regulations from the state say that special education students and early childhood must be given at least two and a half hours of instructional time, so JCPS is dividing up the day into early child instructional time and early childhood enrichment time. 

Pollio said the Early Childhood centers will be open for all students for the entire day if parents are able to provide the transportation.

"So for families who can provide transportation for the Early Childhood students, in the morning and afternoon, we are working on a plan where we will provide a monthly monetary stipend to all families who will need that transportation," Pollio said. "We're working on that plan."

Pollio said any bus drivers will be eligible for an additional $5 an hour raise if an early childhood route makes their commute more challenging. 

Jalynn Smith has waited anxiously to see when her daughter will return to DuValle Education Center.

She found out about the early childhood start date on Friday.

"It's very frustrating to her, she really doesn't understand because she's four but she's missing the interaction, " Smith said.

The district's transportation changes do not align with Smith's work schedule and now she is relying on family to help drop-off and pick up her daughter from school.  

Pollio said that he does "clearly acknowledge it's an inconvenience and a problem but that's what the stipend is for. There's just unfortunately, in our current situation, there is no other way around."

However, Smith is concerned about her 4-year-old daughter Jersi missing out on learning and social interactions between other students.

"I mean, I do as much as I can while I'm at home with her, as much as my family does, but still, she needs the hands on learning from the teachers at school," she said.

Summer programming will be extended next summer for students to make up for readiness to kindergarten.

Pollio said these transportation adjustments highlight the need for more bus drivers, putting out a call for help.

"Once again we have 575 bus drivers we need about 100 more in order to meet all of the needs of our current transportation system," he said. 

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