LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools will reach out to students who have not regularly participated in remote classes starting next week, district officials said Tuesday.

Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman said the district will send families “nudge” letters developed by EveryDay Labs in hopes of boosting participation in nontraditional instruction, which has dipped every week since the 2020-21 school year began remotely Aug. 25.

“We were hesitant to send anything at first,” she said, noting that the letters will include information about their children’s participation in distance learning coursework. “We know this has been such a hard time for families, so we wanted to give everyone time to settle in.”

Participation in the district’s nontraditional instruction program, called “NTI 2.0,” has dropped slightly each week, starting from a high of 93.5% in the first week to 90.8% in the sixth.

JCPS hopes to reverse that trend, however. The district has launched a participation awareness campaign that runs through Nov. 20, and a virtual reengagement program will be offered for students who have had limited or no participation in nontraditional instruction so far, Coleman said.

“When those school attendance teams feel that they have exhausted all the resources that they have for reengaging students, they refer them to this district network, and that network has been able to get lots of kids back reengaged with learning,” she said.

Participation through the first six weeks of nontraditional instruction has been highest for the district’s Asian students, who have a 95.5% participation rate. JCPS data presented Tuesday show white students have the second-highest participation rate with 93.7%.

Participation in distance learning has been lowest for English-language learners at 85.9% followed by special needs students at 87.8%, Black students at 88.8% and Hispanic students at 88.9%, according to district data.

Student participation is counted daily and can include logging into learning management systems, turning in assignments and one-on-one or group interactions with teachers.

Dena Dossett, chief of accountability, research and systems improvement, said there could be opportunities to provide “targeted support” for students learning English, and Pollio said the district would connect with partners who work with such families in hopes of increasing participation for English learners to 90%.

“I think it is very important once we get that data to focus on the quality of that engagement,” Pollio said. “... We’re going to work extremely hard to get that, but we’ll keep pushing.”

Kentucky’s largest school district is working to engage students in distance learning at a time when reopening classes soon seems unlikely.

Jefferson County’s COVID-19 incidence rate was 34 new daily cases per 100,000 residents based on a seven-day rolling average as of Tuesday, putting it solidly in the state’s highest coronavirus risk category alongside other counties with incidence rates that exceed 25.

Pollio reiterated that local COVID-19 data must have Jefferson County trending toward the yellow phase of the state’s color-coded coronavirus incidence rate map, or between one and 10 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, before he recommends resuming in-person instruction.

The escalation of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County has frustrated school board members.

Chris Kolb, the board’s vice chairman who represents District 2, said Gov. Andy Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer should “grow a spine” and implement coronavirus restrictions to help JCPS reopen classrooms for the first time since March.

He suggested “putting pressure on other levels of government” to help get JCPS students back inside schools and urging lawmakers for additional resources as school districts throughout Kentucky grapple with the pandemic’s fallout.

“I really just can’t put into words how livid I am with the lack of restrictions on activities,” Kolb said. “... It really frustrates me when I hear people like the governor say that they don’t think restrictions work when there’s all kinds of evidence that they do.”

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