JCPS prepares to return to in-person school


The Jefferson County Board Members have a discussion before they address Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio’s proposal for in-person schooling in the district.

Ofelia Mattingly and Macy Waddle

The Jefferson County Board of Education has voted 4-3 to continue with Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio’s amended proposal to go back to in-person school. The proposal includes his suggestion that elementary and early childhood students return to school starting March 17 and middle and high school students return to school after Spring break in April.

Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio announced his plan Thursday morning about when students can return to school.

All students will be following a hybrid model, despite the original plan stating elementary students would return five days a week. 

Half the student body will attend school Monday and Tuesday, while the other half will attend Thursday and Friday; this will be split up based on last name. 

All students still have the option of staying virtual if they choose to do so.

Teachers will return to schools to teach 14 days after they get the COVID-19 booster shot. Additionally, if a teacher receives accommodations to teach from home, they will be fully virtual.

Staff work days are set-up days for teachers to prepare. Elementary and early childhood staff will have work days on March 15 and 16, while high school staff will have their work days on March 25 and 26, the Thursday and Friday before Spring break. These days, students will be asynchronous. 

Dr. Pollio also announced that Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear suggested that schools reopen after March 1. The House Bill 208 amendment provides requirements about in-person instruction for JCPS. All districts are to offer an in-person hybrid option beginning on March 29. The KDE will not approve of the student’s attendance if this is not followed. The district will offer remote instruction with the permission of parents/guardians.

“Manual releases specific guidelines for in-person schooling” and “JCPS announces plan to return to in-person school” gives specific guidelines on what JCPS will require schools to do when students return to in-person school.

Additional Guidelines

Dr. Pollio announced new guidelines for transportation. Buses will have an average of 12 students per bus for middle and high school, and 20 students per bus for elementary school.

 As of now, there are no buses with more than 44 students, which would be 2 students per seat. For group A, there will be 68 buses and Group B will have 65. 200 buses are supplied for elementary students.

JCPS will order thermometers for families in need and can read out to FRYSCs/YSCs to access them. 50 thermometers will be given to each school at the present. Upper Air UV light systems were ordered for smaller spaces. Chris Perkins, JCPS Chief Operations Officer (COO) announced that JCPS has ordered internal fan coil ionization emitters for classrooms that don’t pull in outside air or have windows. Emergency drills will be evaluated when students return back to school.

JCPS is also currently in the process of hiring and training nurses and custodial staff in each school.

When addressing graduations, Dr. Pollio states that it is “extremely premature” to decide what procedures will be taken. Pollio expresses that he wants an in-person graduation.

After expressing each of the members’ concerns about going back to the school buildings with Dr. Pollio’s proposal, the Board of Education has voted to pursue the return to school. The meeting was adjourned at 9:15.

Reactions from the Manual community

Students from the Manual community have expressed their excitement about going back to in-person school.

“I am a freshman this year, so I am excited to finally get to experience Manual in person,” Kaelin Gaydos (9, J&C) said. “I will get to participate in clubs, meet my peers and my teachers, and be more immersed in my classes.” 

“I’m glad that they’re giving students this opportunity to go back because being able to be in a classroom setting is something that a lot of students need in order to focus and have a sense of structure,” Jaylen Mills (10, HSU) said.

“I’m really happy to be going back because I know being in-person is going to greatly improve my mental health and I will actually be able to learn something,” Juliette Cabral (12, YPAS) said.

“I miss social interactions and everything about school itself so much! I love learning and I love every aspect of school from sitting in class and learning to laughing with my friends at lunch!” Liv Ashley (9, YPAS) said. “I know it will not be completely normal but I’m so excited to just be back into a building,” Ashley said.

“So long as everyone is able to stay socially distanced and/or masked (hopefully masked at all times besides lunch), it seems there won’t be much of a risk of transmission,” Luc Fabing (11, HSU) said. “However, I am a little concerned about people with medical exemptions from mask-wearing. If I walk into school and there are a significant number of students running around without masks on, I’m going back home. I hope that people who are unable to wear masks will choose to remain on NTI.”

Gaydos stated how nervous she would be about going back to school because she doesn’t know the building or have many friends because of NTI.

“The few friends I have are not going the same days as me,” Gaydos said.” I am nervous about getting lost in the school and not being prepared enough for sophomore year. I am also nervous to make the adjustment back to in-person.”

Many students have expressed their concerns and fear about being in-person. 

“I said terrified, and I truly do feel scared and worried for the reopening of school. My mom wants me to go back in-person because I lost my dad in January, and we think a sense of normalcy would be good for me,” Anna Schroll (11, J&C) said. “Countless people will be going to the beach and will still come back to school because they don’t care. Teachers have been vaccinated, but students aren’t. Losing my dad to COVID tore me apart, and these past few months have been the worst of my life. I don’t want anyone else to have to endure this pain because of irresponsible opening policies. I’m afraid and worried, but I feel pressured to go back because the district’s plan obviously favors students going back in-person and students online are an afterthought.”

“I know that my situation is quite privileged. My mom has been vaccinated already, and both my brother and dad are getting vaccinated soon, so I don’t need to worry about infecting my family. But there are so many kids who don’t have that,” Cabral said. “So I believe that there are a lot of kids who will stay virtual because they’re worried about their family’s safety, and I feel like they will just be forgotten about and pushed aside. I also feel that the school board doesn’t care about the students at all, they only care about the money. And they are only sending us back so we can do all of the stupid standardized testing. So I don’t know if they actually believe it’s going to be safe or if they are just sending us back for the money.”

“I’m nervous about how this will all turn out and if all of our students and staff will be safe because I know a lot of students haven’t been quarantining too well,” Mills said. “All of the students and teachers have been through so much change and uncertainty in the last year that making this big transition in the last 3 months of school is pretty overwhelming for a lot of people right now.” 

“I’m excited to go back to school and to talk to my friends, but my sister is barely turning two and I’m worried about her,” Aria Avila (10,VA) said. “It’s the ‘what if.’ What if she gets COVID? What if her immune system isn’t strong enough? The only reason why I’m going back is because of AP seminar. If I didn’t have this class, I would be staying home.” 

Some students believe that there is no point in returning back to school for the remainder of the year. 

“I personally don’t think it is worth putting the families at risk when we only have two months of this hybrid instruction, which I think is only 13 in-person classes with each teacher,” Mills said.

There’s no point in going in so late into the school year and cases are finally going down,” Firas Alsanabani (11, HSU) said. “If we reopen it’s 100% going to get worse. We should just wait until next year, they’re rushing it.”

“I don’t see a reason that a district would want to go back as late as April 5th besides to do standardized testing or K-PREP,” Nicholas Bowman (10th, MST) said.