Amid opposing mask protests, JCPS board discusses issues pressing the district

As two groups of protesters confronted each other over Jefferson County Public Schools’ district-wide mask mandate, the county school board met to discuss impor
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 11:47 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As two groups of protesters confronted each other over Jefferson County Public Schools’ district-wide mask mandate, the district’s school board met to discuss important issues plaguing the district.

The debate outside the Van Hoose Education Center was centered around JCPS students being mandated to wear masks in school buildings and buses.

Some believe the mandate isn’t fair, and should be made optional.

“The school board passed school choice, and I feel like it’s in the same realm of as a choice for a mask, honestly,” JCPS parent Clark Absher said.

Others believe masks are a necessary step to curb the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.

“When it comes to keeping my infant son healthy, my wife healthy, my parents, my friends healthy, it’s the most important thing,” JCPS teacher Chandler Gies said.

But oddly enough, the chants and the signs did not mirror what was on the board’s agenda.

Inside the conference room, they discussed the district’s staffing shortages.

“We have 70 buses that we are still working to find drivers for,” JCPS Chief Operating Officer Chris Perkins said.

“We do have to look at the way we do things differently in order to meet the needs of our kids,” JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said.

Perkins said 70 routes need to be covered, but said the district expects to have positions filled soon.

“So we know we are going to experience delays on the first day,” Perkins said. “We have about 80 applicants in the pipeline for the training to become drivers.”

The challenges continue when students walk in the door.

JCPS data showed 437 teachers resigned during the 2021-2022 school year. The board did not discuss exactly how short on teachers the district currently is, but Pollio said he is recruiting hard.

“We’ve had 48 contracts signings already this week,” Pollio said. “We had 57 job offers go out today.”

That said, Perkins said he believes the district’s security plan will be locked in soon.

He said the district is currently finishing up interviews with the remaining school security officer, or SSO, candidates.

Yet as those issues were discussed, the majority of the people who were protesting the mask mandate were not there to listen.

After making their respective points on the front lawn, many of them left the property.

The first day of school for JCPS students is August 10.

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