JCPS lays out what returning to school will look like


Payton Carns and Guest Contributor

Editor-in-Chief of On the Record Magazine Lainey Holland co-contributed on this story.

This month’s special JCPS Board of Education meeting proposed a detailed plan to send students back to school when it is safe to do so.

“We want our kids back at school as soon as possible,” Dr. Marty Pollio said.

JCPS is currently in the “red zone” meaning the COVID-19 cases in the district are at more than 25 cases per 100,000 people daily; that number is currently at 31.1.

Both the CDC and the White House have declared JCPS a “red zone” district and recommend no large gatherings at this time.

For this plan to be implemented, JCPS must be sustained in the “yellow zone” where there are only 10 cases per 100,000 people daily. Only then will the district consider sending students back to school.

The anticipated timeline is that elementary students will go back the first week, followed by grades sixth and ninth the second week and then the remainder of students for the third week.

The learning plan

Students will have the choice of returning to school following a hybrid model or may choose a virtual option due to safety or health concerns.

Screenshot from JCPS’ BOE presentation detailing the possible schedule schools will use as students come back to in-person school.

Schools will follow an A/B schedule to limit the number of people entering the building at one time. 

Group A will go to school Mondays and Tuesdays while Group B will go to school Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students at the discretion of the individual schools.

“It would allow buildings with larger populations of students to do a better job with socially distancing,” Dr. Carmen Colman of the board said.

One concern noted by Pollio is that the individual schools will have to create their own master plans; this is a long-term planning document that lays out a guide for how the school will work.

Because of the complication of this, students could be assigned to different teachers and teachers could be assigned to different students.

“I know the challenge with creating a master schedule, which is usually done through the course of the entire summer,” Pollio said.

Pollio also hopes to get elementary students on a five-day week schedule, citing concerns about child care and missed learning opportunities.

“NTI is harder at the elementary school level,” Pollio said. “We are committed to getting our elementary schools and pre-k students back first, at least one week in advance.”

There is also a virtual learning option available for those who are unable to return to in-person school safely. Teachers across JCPS will be delivering synchronous instruction through the virtual learning platforms used currently during NTI 2.0. This instruction will closely replicate live classes, with students and teachers following a specific class schedule. 

Savvas Realize will be the primary digital learning curriculum and students will continue to use Google Classroom.

JCPS’ outlines requirements for the virtual learning option on this slide.

The members of the board also presented specific guidelines for each facet of the learning plan including busing, arrival/dismissal, classrooms, common areas and special education practices.

General protective guidelines

Students and faculty will be required to follow all social distancing guidelines as outlined by the CDC.

Increased practices such as providing extra space between desks, placing signs and visual indicators on floors/walls and reducing the number of students in common areas will be implemented. This includes breakfast and lunch, where students will have assigned seats for contact tracing. 

The use of masks is required of all students and staff unless they have an issued medical waiver; masks should only be lowered when someone is actively eating or drinking.

The district will provide masks to anyone who doesn’t have access to one, and other PPE equipment will be provided for employees.

“We’ve been doing training with staff on what personal protective equipment is indicated for different procedures, “ Board member Eva Stone said.

Temperature checks will be required for anyone entering the building. Following state guidelines, students and staff should not come to school if they have a temperature above 100.4 or if they have symptoms of COVID-19; a parent-signed affidavit will require this.

The board also outlined a specific plan for handling a student or staff member or tests positive for COVID-19:

The procedures to follow when someone in the school gets sick is shown in these slides.


The procedures to follow when someone in the school gets sick is shown in these slides.


All students will be required to wear a mask during the bus ride unless they have a medical waiver; they will use hand sanitizer among entry.

If a student is showing signs of sickness, there will be a designated seat at the front of the bus for them.

As recommended by the Kentucky Department of Education, windows will be open at all times with weather and safety permitting.

At bus depots, there will be staff to assist with the unloading of students while buses are being cleaned. Students will be escorted by those staff members to their next bus. 

Arrival and dismissal

Every student and staff member will be required to have their temperature checked upon entering the school building. This will not be required when students board the bus to go home for the day. 

If a student arrives at school without a mask, there will be a mask for them to wear. 

There will be health and isolation rooms for students who display COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival at the school building or during the school day. Ideally, parents will pick up their student from the school who is waiting in an isolation room. The district will release more information regarding a plan for parents who are not able to pick up their sick child from school. This plan will likely depend on the availability of JCPS bus drivers. 

Special education

Pollio and the Board recognize that special education students will need extra support during in-person and virtual instruction. 

As far as routine cleaning and disinfecting, staff members will be responsible for cleaning the devices of special education students, such as wheelchairs, scooters and other assistive technologies. 

The district will do its best to keep students in the Virtual Academy with an IEP with certified staff.

Next steps

The board wants to note that the transition back to school will likely be complicated given the raised anxieties and safety concerns resulting from COVID-19. 

JCPS recently sent out a form where families can choose whether their children prefer to go back to in-person school or follow a virtual plan. They collected the following results:

The results from the survey conducted by the district show that a majority of JCPS families want to send their students back to school.

Faculty and staff across the district also have been requesting accommodations to go back due to high-risk COVID-19 concerns, and teachers are still split on whether they want to go back at all; additionally, the district cannot force teachers with compromised health conditions to come back.

The number of staff members requesting special COVID-19 accommodations are outlined in these slides.

This plan is yet to be voted on and implemented, and will likely change based on data regarding the coronavirus. Because JCPS is in the red zone, they are unable to send students back in the near future. 

For now, Pollio and the board plan to monitor the COVID-19 positivity rates in the state and provide more information to parents about their options in sending their kids back to school.

“Providing transitional support during this time is key to having a healthy return to school,” board member Alicia Averette said.

More information on this plan will be available in the coming weeks as JCPS announces it.

“We will get our kids back as soon as we possibly can,” Pollio said. “As a superintendent and father, I want nothing more than to do that.”