Teams across JCPS are working on plans for the start of the new school year that prioritize health and safety. Under the challenging and frequently changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration and adaptability are key. Various committees, including teachers and principals, are considering how to adapt current and previous practices to best serve students whether learning takes place inside our school buildings, in a fully online atmosphere, or through a solution that lies somewhere in between.
The JCPS Calendar Committee is looking at moving the start date of school from August 12 to August 26. This would allow more time to monitor the conditions in our community and provide more professional development and training for teachers. The Jefferson County Board of Education has to approve any changes to the calendar. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is July 21.
Where We Are
As JCPS explores options to potentially open school buildings and hold in-person classes in the fall, safety is at the center of all discussions. JCPS is committed to following all guidance and directions from the Department of Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Here’s the latest guidance from KDE.
Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman is leading the state’s effort to develop recommendations for school districts to get back in school buildings while addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Lt. Governor Coleman says the state is working with five principles for local districts to consider while preparing for a return to school: wearing masks, practicing social distancing, hand/surface sanitizing, temperature checks, and contact tracing. While final decisions on these measures and what the new school year might look like are still being developed, we want to ensure you have the most up-to-date information about where we are in the process.
JCPS has eight work groups from across various departments, including principals and teachers, coming up with scenarios that will be shared with focus groups at the end of June. Those focus groups will include parents and civic leaders in the community. Once feedback is obtained from those focus groups, we will share the ideas with families in an online virtual Town Hall discussion to be held in early July. Based on feedback received and guidance from state officials, we anticipate an announcement will be made in mid-July about a final decision on class scheduling, transportation, and the health and safety measures required.
Please know that any decision announced could be subject to adjustments or changes based on the number of COVID-19 cases currently in our community and updated recommendations from health experts. Any decision will be made in the best interest of student and staff health and safety. We miss our students, and we know that during these difficult times, our families will continue to come together to support learning!
We are taking many factors into consideration as we progress toward making a final recommendation to our board as to what the start of the school year will look like. We understand that:
- Children learn better when they are in a traditional classroom environment with in-person instruction.
- A COVID-19 vaccine is not available and a 100 percent effective treatment protocol is not designated. We understand that some students and members of our staff have, or live with someone who has, underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to more severe complications of the virus.
- Many families are returning to work outside the home and would prefer that their child be in a school building during the day.
- Under the current guidance, all students would be required to wear masks for the majority of the school day, which can be especially challenging to maintain for our youngest students, those with special needs, and those with certain medical conditions. We know students would have to remove masks to eat breakfast and lunch and could sneeze or cough during that time.
- We are considering square footage in our classrooms and other common areas. Spacing students six feet apart will be challenging to establish and to maintain for the duration of classes for some grades and some schools.
- Using existing resources only, some student support services would not be as readily available or facilitated as effectively outside the traditional school environment.
- In the event of a COVID positive test and/or exposure to a COVID positive person, the current guidance is for some students or staff to quarantine at home with little to no notice.
- Resources would need to be allocated to purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for school staff and students who may forget their masks at home.
For JCPS Employees
The majority of our employees have been working remotely since March when our physical school buildings closed. JCPS is continuing to develop a plan for employees to return to their work locations. State officials have released guidance and safety protocols for the workplace that we are following for several central office employees and operations team members who’ve already returned to work. As we continue to focus on safety, plans will be released about a phased return to work for our employees.