schools returning after winter break

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After time off for winter break, thousands of Kentuckiana students, teachers and staff members are preparing to return to the classroom. COVID-19 remains a concern for many, especially with the omicron variant confirmed in both Kentucky and Indiana.

"It is a large portion of our conversation because school safety is like, the most important thing for our staff and students," said school board member Lee Ann Wiseheart, with New Albany Floyd County Schools. 

Leaders from multiple districts say they're working on steps to safely keep students and teachers in the classroom for in-person learning. 

"Our goal is to maximize the number of in-person days we can. We want to keep our students and staff at school, we want to keep them safe," said Bullitt County Schools Superintendent Jesse Bacon. 

Bacon said one of the leading factors to determine if buildings can keep their doors open is staffing, which he said is being monitored. 

"As of right now, our numbers look pretty good," he said. "We feel good about coming back tomorrow (Tuesday). We just look forward to seeing our kids come back through those doors."

Bacon said the district is hiring substitutes "all the time."

"That's one of those things we could always use more of, much like every other district across the state and country for that matter," he said.

Oldham County students also return to the classroom Tuesday.

A statement from Oldham County Schools reads: "We have been concerned about teacher shortages and COVID-19 related absences since the beginning of the pandemic. And like many school districts, we struggle with finding subs to fill all our open positions. We have a plan in place that utilizes all certified central office staff to cover classrooms if necessary."

Jefferson County Public Schools, also returning to school Tuesday, said certified substitute teachers can receive a $500 or $1,000 bonus, depending on the school. The $1,000 critical needs stipend is for every 20 consecutive days spent working in critical needs schools. For more information about JCPS, click here.

New Albany Floyd County Schools is also offering an incentive for substitutes, according to Wiseheart. 

"We have, in fact, raised our substitute pay, trying to be more of an incentive from a financial standpoint so we have done that and we are open and out of the box thinking of any opportunities we have to increase that pool, absolutely," she said. 

School leaders ask those who feel sick to stay home. 

"Be in contact with your teachers and your schools, said Bacon. "We'll make sure we get them their work, we won't let them get behind, we'll keep them up to date and all those things, but we just need everybody doing their part at this time so we can try to stomp this out as quick as possible." 

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