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JCPS teachers putting finishing touches on classrooms as first day of school approaches

With Jefferson County still in the 'red' for COVID levels, teachers at Fern Creek Elementary expect students will start the year in masks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The official first day back for JCPS teachers is just one week away. Many teachers have already come back to classrooms to prep for their students return. 

At Fern Creek Elementary, teachers are also prepared for the possibility of starting school in masks.

“Even if we are in masks, we’ve done it before and the kids are so resilient," first grade teacher Samantha Smith said. 

Monday, Jefferson County was still in the 'red' zone for COVID-19 levels. Universal masking is required until the county is out of the high level for community spread. 

Smith said this year, her students will be better prepared for in-person learning.

"The kids will have been in person in Kindergarten, so what is that going to look like, how can I meet their needs," she said. 

Teachers at Fern Creek said the first few weeks of school will focus on setting rules and expectations and readying students for the academic year. 

Kindergarten teacher Abby Stamper said the past two years have changed how she approaches the beginning of school. 

“They way kids are learning is different, we focus more on social emotional skills and coping mechanisms, whereas before it was content, content, content," she said. 

Since the pandemic, school districts nationwide have seen dramatic teacher shortages. JCPS is still advertising for dozens of open teaching positions

Fern Creek Elementary Principal Tonya Arnold said luckily, they've escaped the staffing issues. The school only needs to fill a few support positions, and every room has a teacher. 

Arnold credits the support within the school and among teachers. 

“One of the things as an educator you have to think on your feet, so as challenges come we’ll work together to solve them," she said. “It’s not an easy job, but it’s one people who come to education are very passionate about so they understand what other people need.”

Stamper said even with the challenges of quarantines among staff and students last year, she feels like the school administration helped as much as possible. 

“We have had days where there weren’t enough subs in the building, special area teachers have had to cover, but our administration always supports us," she said.

Before the first day of school, teachers will be putting the finishing touches on their classrooms, planning and completing professional development. 

Smith wants her students to know she is there for them and she is ready for the challenge of a new year. 

“Kids are going to struggle regardless of what’s going on but kids are also going to excel," she said. “We might not see your smiling faces but we’ll see your smiling eyes.”

Contact reporter Grace McKenna at GMcKenna@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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