LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education will get a plan this month for how Kentucky’s largest school district will determine when to reopen its classrooms, Superintendent Marty Pollio said Tuesday.
At that same September meeting, the board will also be asked to approve an agreement between Jefferson County Public Schools and Evolve502 to jointly open learning centers for groups of students while the district’s classes are held virtually, according to Pollio.
The continued work on the nontraditional instruction program for JCPS, called “NTI 2.0,” comes after a tumultuous first week of remote learning for the district, which had to abruptly switch video conferencing platforms from Google Meet to Microsoft Teams after multiple middle- and high-school classes were disrupted by students on the first day of the 2020-21 school year.
JCPS is starting with at least six weeks of nontraditional instruction, given Louisville’s COVID-19 caseload amid a recent escalation of cases throughout Kentucky.
While the district might continue its distance learning program beyond the initial six-week period, board Vice Chairman Chris Kolb said he wanted district administrators to develop strategies for the resumption of classroom instruction in case local COVID-19 cases drop.
“I want to do everything that we can do as a very large institution to slow the spread of COVID in our community, but as a parent and as a board member, I see every day that this is just really, really hard on families to do schooling this way,” Kolb said, adding that he hoped JCPS would push other governmental entities to prioritize COVID-19 mitigation strategies centered on getting students back in classrooms “instead of letting people go to eat at a restaurant.”
“It’s just really, really hard, and we’ve got to do everything we can to get kids back in school,” he said.
Pollio said the district’s pandemic response team continues to plan for a reopening of schools, which will be presented at the board’s Sept. 15 meeting.
The plan, to be presented this month, will likely include “clear metrics” to help the board determine when it’s safe for students and staff to return to classrooms, he said.
“We think we’re going to get that prior to the Sept. 15 board meeting so we’ll be able to present that to you at that time as well so that there is clear data that everyone knows this is what has to happen to get back to school,” Pollio said, noting that such data would be publicly available.
That Sept. 15 board meeting will also include a contract between JCPS and Evolve502 to operate learning hubs. Pollio said the district will be asked to staff those centers, which have been pitched as a way to bring small groups of students in buildings for needed services and academic interventions, and provide technology and potentially meal services, Pollio said.
“We’re happy that Evolve502 is the convening partner, and we think that we’ll have those up and supported shortly after that Sept. 15 board meeting,” he said.
The board also voted to approve a contract worth $5 million with Savvas Learning Company for a digital K-12 curriculum for the district’s virtual instruction programs. The district is paying for the contract through federal stimulus funding, according to Communications Director Renee Murphy.
Robert Moore, supervisor of leadership and professional development, said the online curriculum will allow teachers of every grade level to offer core instruction that can be translated into more than 100 languages.
“This resource will help ensure that each of our students has access to consistent digital curriculum and will go a long way toward ensuring an equitable NTI experience,” he said.
During the first week of distance learning, Pollio said JCPS teachers led nearly 100,000 synchronous learning experiences for more than 92,000 K-12 students.
That’s 961 fewer students than projected, including more than 700 who were expected to begin kindergarten, he said.
Pollio speculated that some families had decided to hold their children back a year before beginning kindergarten.
“It’s very likely we could see an increase in kindergarten at this time next year,” he said.
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