JCPS superintendent says COVID-19 spike to blame for NTI expansion

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio explained why he decided to postpone the district’s return to in-person learning on Friday.

The district sent an email to parents informing them the plan to return to in-person classes on Oct. 22 had been delayed on Thursday.

“We want to get back as soon as we possibly can," Pollio said. "Our kids need to be back in school, there is no doubt. But we got to make sure that we ensure safety and health first.”

Pollio told reporters during a news conference at a Verizon Innovative Learning Program hosted at Carrithers Middle School the decision was based predominantly on Jefferson County’s spike in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. Pollio said the latest numbers show Jefferson County has a case rate of nearly 24 cases per 100,000 people and a COVID-19 positivity rate of 8.1 percent.

“It has been a sharp increase in both," Pollio said. "A sharp increase.”

Pollio also said he is positive the district will return to in-person classes at some point in the school year and hopes that return to learning comes by the end of 2020. Despite his optimism, Pollio said when the district returns to in-person learning, people will still feel the effects of the pandemic.

“One thing I do know, this entire school year will be impacted by this COVID-19. We will not go back to anything normal this school year. So, whether that’s hybrid, once we get back the rest of the way, social distancing, masks. I mean, we will not be back, I’m confident of that, but I do think we can get back in school."

Pollio said he was also concerned about JCPS teachers, one-third of which are considered “high-risk” for the disease.

He also said the positivity rate for minority communities is higher than it is for white students, another factor in his decision to push back in-person learning,

Pollio said the goal is to get Jefferson County back in the yellow category, below 10 cases per 100,000, and a positivity rate below 6 percent in order for schools to open.

“So there’s no doubt that as the days go by, I mean, it becomes much more difficult [to go back to school in 2020], especially with everything trending in the wrong direction," Pollio said. "But once again, I want to give every chance for us to be back in school as quickly as possible. So we’ll monitor that data and as soon as that data shows it, we’re going to make a recommendation to go back.”

The decision to continue online learning was one Brittney Brown welcomed.

“We’re just making it work you know," Brown said.

Brown is a stay-at-home mom and told WAVE 3 News that has allowed her to take a more hands-on role in her children’s education.

“My kids learn a lot better at home," Brown said. "They’re more comfortable, you know? So by them being in their comfort zone, they’re paying attention more. They’re listening. So, I think it’s great.”

Brown acknowledged other families may have different experiences than hers has had, but said her family has succeeded during the first two months of school because of their ability to help one another complete assignments.

“[It’s] definitely a task, but you know, we work it all out, help each other out and help in any way they can,” Brown said.

Pollio said parents will have a choice to continue virtual learning once students return to the classroom. He said he will present his plan to the county’s Board of Education on Tuesday.

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