JCPS to be out of school Monday, move to remote learning Tuesday

·3 min read

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky's largest school district is moving to virtual learning as COVID-19 cases skyrocket.

Jefferson County Public Schools will be out of session on Monday before switching to nontraditional instruction, or NTI, from Tuesday through Friday, according to emails sent to parents and staff.

Students are expected to return to in-person learning on Jan. 18, Superintendent Marty Pollio told school leaders, “if we have a decrease in the amount of cases and really the ability to bring and staff our schools appropriately."

"While we don’t anticipate this being a prolonged period of NTI, we ask families to be flexible as our community continues to see more cases of the Omicron variant increase," JCPS told families Sunday night.

JCPS cited "a reduced number of staff available to work in our schools" as reasoning behind the move, saying the temporary switch to remote learning will "allow our staff to recover from COVID and complete quarantines and isolations."

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As students briefly returned to in-person classes last week, teachers repeatedly raised alarm bells over staff absences and the limited number of substitutes available. Pollio echoed their concerns Wednesday, saying JCPS was nearing its breaking point regarding staffing.

Just before 5 p.m. Sunday, he told school leaders he planned on switching to NTI in the coming week. “This is not the work of cowards. It is the work of pioneers,” Pollio told school leaders in a recording obtained by The Courier Journal.

District officials met twice Sunday, Pollio said, reviewing COVID-19 and staffing numbers.

It became “untenable” to continue with in-person learning with “the severe employee shortage that we have,” Pollio said.

“And we were getting there late last week,” Pollio added, acknowledging high numbers of staff absences schools faced upon returning from winter break.

The staffing shortages will prevent schools from being in session but will not impact planned athletics or extracurricular programs. Such activities "may continue as long as staff is available to oversee those limited events," according to the district's letter to families, which did not cite any cancellations.

School principals will reach out to families to say more about what students can expect, according to the JCPS letter, and will send a message to parents containing "your child’s schedule, instructions on using Google classroom, and additional information unique to your school."

During the time out of the classroom, JCPS will operate curbside meal distribution programs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. A list of meal distribution locations is available here.

Kentucky school districts can use 10 NTI days each year. JCPS will have six days left to use for the 2021-22 school year after this week. The district also has two remaining days built into its school calendar that can be forgiven.

COVID-19 cases have been rising in the district since students and teachers prepared to return to the classroom last weekend. By the end of the first day of school Tuesday, JCPS was experiencing its highest-ever number of active cases for both students and staff.

As of Sunday evening, JCPS has more than 2,700 positive cases among students and staff. Close to 2,800 are also in quarantine.

Under state law, staff are required to report to schools on NTI days. Anyone who is quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 or had a pre-approved absence can work from home.

Employees can bring school-age children with them to work, a district spokeswoman said.

Pollio told school leaders Sunday he was “hoping and confident that this may be the end as we work through the omicron (variant).”

Related: Most Kentucky colleges prepare to start classes as scheduled amid omicron variant surge

Recent headlines: Teacher, recently fired by JCPS after fight with student, being sued by student's family

This story will be updated.

Reach Olivia Krauth at okrauth@courierjournal.com and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: JCPS moves to NTI as COVID-19 cases spike in Louisville

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