LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky's largest district will remain on virtual learning for another week, the district announced Monday.
Jefferson County Public Schools moved to nontraditional instruction, or NTI, for the first time this school year last week due to "untenable" staffing numbers.
After a combined 11 days out of classrooms, JCPS has not seen a significant change in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff, sparking additional time on NTI.
"We reviewed the data as recently as this morning and have determined that we do not have enough staff to safely return to school, at this time," the district wrote in an email to families Monday afternoon.
Bullitt County Public School students will also be on NTI Tuesday, though the decision was made because of ice-covered roads, not COVID-19 cases.
Around 4.4% of JCPS employees and students were positive or quarantined when schools dismissed early Jan. 6. A week later, that figure was up to 5.4%. Over the weekend, case and quarantine numbers declined slightly but staff figures remained around 4.5%.
District officials said JCPS had 692 staff in isolation or quarantine shortly after 2 p.m. Monday — up about 30 from Jan. 9 when the district first decided to move to virtual learning.
JCPS will continue to operate its curbside meal service this week. Families can pick up two days worth of meals for kids at more than 100 sites from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
School districts get 10 NTI days a year. After this week, JCPS will have two NTI days left for the rest of the school year. The district is using its remaining days "strategically," it said in emails to staff and families.
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"It appears the number of positive cases may trend downward next week," the employee email says, adding the district hopes keeping classes virtual will decrease cases to the point they can reopen next Monday.
Under a new state law, districts also get 10 remote learning days per school. Remote learning days can only be used to close individual schools, and can't be used to move the entire district online.
The JCPS school board is expected to give Superintendent Marty Pollio the authority to use those remote learning days in the future, if needed, in a special board meeting Tuesday evening.
The board is also scheduled to discuss and vote on relaxed quarantine policies during the meeting. If approved, JCPS students and staff would no longer need to quarantine following COVID-19 exposure inside schools.
"We understand that continuing NTI may inconvenience you and your family, but we believe this is the best decision, at this time, to ensure our students receive the best instruction possible in a safe environment," the district wrote to families.
This story will be updated.
Reach Olivia Krauth at email@example.com and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: JCPS extends virtual learning amid COVID-19 surge, staffing shortages