JCPS parents share back to school concerns in virtual town hall

JCPS parents share back to school concerns in virtual town hall
JCPS officials held a virtual back to school town hall meeting to discuss the upcoming school year on Monday.
JCPS officials held a virtual back to school town hall meeting to discuss the upcoming school year on Monday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A panel of administrators from Jefferson County Public Schools discussed the fall semester in a virtual town hall meeting Monday.

“Without a doubt, student and staff health and safety is number one and all of our decisions will be made around that first and foremost,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said.

Families in the district were invited to share their feedback during the live-streamed YouTube discussion.

“I think we had more than 600 responses and questions and comments on our Facebook page as of this afternoon, we have read through all of them and plan to answer many of them here tonight,” district spokesperson Mark Hebert said.

During the town hall, Dr. Pollio addressed the way students could return to school in two distinct pathways: in-person instruction or a “virtual academy.”

“Students will log on at the start time of school and be on the computer the entire school day with the teacher, whether that be instruction or doing assignments,” he said.

Pollio confirmed that families would be asked to commit to one of those options for at least half of the semester, although, students in the virtual academy would be able to participate in extracurricular activities and sports.

JCPS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Carmen Coleman explained the virtual academy would be more “robust” than non-traditional instruction (NTI). Dr. Pollio said no matter which direction the district chooses, it will be a challenge. To combat some of those issues, JCPS has requested 30,000 new Chromebooks with CARES Act funding.

On Monday, many parents asked how the district would enforce social distancing and face mask use while maintaining clean conditions in the classroom and on the bus. Dr. Pollio said JCPS could spend around $15 million on face masks, sanitizer, and other cleaning costs.

“Ideally we want every classroom to have desks spread so that kids have the space between them, but if not we’ll still have masks for students to have them on in the classroom,” Chief Operations Officer Chris Perkins said.

During the meeting, parents also asked about the protocols in place if students or teachers contract COVID-19. District Health Coordinator Eva Stone said the district would be in communication with the health department but there was no guidance on how tests would be paid for.

Stone confirmed that students would have their temperatures checked if face-to-face instruction resumes, and those with fevers over 100.4 degrees would be isolated until they were picked up by a parent.

“If somebody is diagnosed with a case of COVID-19, then it’s 10 days of exclusion and there’s some other factors into that,” she said. “If somebody is the contact of a case, then it’s fourteen days from the date that person started having symptoms of a positive test.”

The district will present much of its plan to the school board on July 21 and request the fall semester start on August 25. The fall semester was originally scheduled to begin August 12, but Pollio said the extra two weeks will give the district more time to follow the progress of COVID-19 in the community.

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