Mitchell McConnell leaves the chamber 2021 AP.jpeg

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the top Republican in Senate, leaves the chamber after Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three new Democratic senators, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. The victory by the two candidates in the pivotal Georgia runoff election this month was decisive in handing Democrats the majority in the Senate and forcing McConnell to become the minority leader. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There was mounting pressure on Jefferson County Public Schools on Wednesday from the U.S. Senate floor to get students back into classrooms. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did everything but call out Chris Kolb, the Jefferson County Board of Education's vice chairman, by name following the board's meeting Tuesday with state and local health officials.

"In my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, the largest school district in the state has a union-funded Board of Education vice chair," McConnell said. "He's now saying that, even if all school personnel get vaccines, he'd still be reluctant to open schools."

The district has stayed in remote learning since the start of the pandemic. Now, as teachers are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, Kolb said the shot is not enough for him to vote to reopen classrooms to in-person instruction.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday said teachers do not need to be vaccinated to reopen schools to in-person learning safely. 

But Kolb issued a reminder that the state and federal rules and recommendations are consistently changing. He said he'd vote to stay online through the end of the year until more of the community can be vaccinated.

"The main reason I don't think vaccinating all JCPS employees is enough is because many of our employees live with high-risk individuals who are not going to be vaccinated," Kolb said. "Many are caretakers for high-risk individuals who are not going to be vaccinated and what we've seen so far is, even though the vaccine is really, really effective in keeping you from getting ill, you still do transmit the virus."

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JCPS Board Member Chris Kolb.

Kolb on Wednesday fired back at McConnell on Twitter, saying "Louisville is not your hometown. That's in Alabama. You're bought by drug companies, health insurers, predatory hedge funds, and the corporate elite," Kolb wrote. "If you got off your ass and did your job, we could defeat COVID. You're a disgrace and you're lucky you didn't have to face (former state Rep. Charles) Booker." 

City and state health officials on Tuesday met with the JCPS Board of Education to discuss safely reopening classrooms. Health officials said JCPS could safely reopen once employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and public health guidance is followed inside schools.

Board members questioned Louisville Metro's chief health strategist, Dr. Sarah Moyer, and the deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, Dr. Connie White, for more than two hours during the meeting. 

The debate over reopening the district's schools has intensified at recent board meetings. Kolb moved to suspend JCPS' winter sports activities except for small-group workouts based on a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, in part, found indoor sports increase COVID-19 transmission risk at schools. 

Kolb was just one of two board members who voted against resuming winter sports at JCPS on Jan. 19, and was among the only votes in favor of significantly limiting athletics activities at Tuesday's meeting.

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