LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is planning for several different scenarios when it comes to resuming instruction for the 2020 fall semester. 

Whether students get back in the classroom or stay home, both options come at a cost.

When COVID-19 hit, Kentucky's largest school district only had a few weeks to set up nontraditional instruction (NTI). 

"We're really pleased with the way NTI went," said Renee Murphy, JCPS' chief communications and community officer. "We had a short period of time that we had to get this online platform of learning together, and we were able to do that very quickly."

NTI posed a technological challenge, but JCPS worked to provide students with Chromebooks and internet access. Participation rates in NTI were above 90% for seven out of eight weeks, JCPS said. Out of more than 98,000 students, only 523 did not participate at all.

However, participation is not gauged by the amount of time students spend learning online.

"Participation is defined as a teacher making contact with a student, engaging with them at least once a week," Murphy said.

If students continue with NTI in the fall, it will be costly for the district, which has to consider the cost of Chromebooks, infrastructure, security, software and internet access.

"We know that it's going to be about $15 million for our technology needs," Murphy said.

Bringing kids back into the classroom could also be expensive. Roughly 6,000 classrooms would need to be outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We're talking about masks; that's thermometers for temperature checks; that's hand sanitizer," Murphy said. "So that comes at a significant cost ... multi-million dollar expense for the district." 

JCPS estimates it will spend roughly $18 million to provide schools with PPE and anticipates there will be other needs. The district received funding from the CARES Act, which will cover some of the expenses — but not everything.

"It's a large amount of money — about $30 million," Murphy said. "We don't anticipate that cover all of our expenses from COVID-19."

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