LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As of Monday, Feb. 22, 165 of Kentucky’s 171 school districts had returned to some form of in-person instruction. Jefferson County Public Schools continues to stick with Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) online, but school board members could change that on Thursday.
The school board will meet Thursday night at 6 p.m. to vote whether to return to in-person instruction. Students would still have the option to do NTI through virtual academy if the board decides to open the schools.
“I get urged to vote ‘yes’ and I get urged to vote ‘no,’ and just as passionately,” Duncan said.
Heading into Thursday’s vote, she said she’s thinking about a number of things: students who need to be back in classrooms and reestablish relationships with teachers, staff and other students, concerns about busing, the infection rate in Jefferson County and the timeline, as the Kentucky legislature considers a bill (HB 208) that would require school districts to reopen by the end of March for in-person instruction.
“[Our infection rate] is moving in the right direction on that and I don’t want to do anything that would upset that trend now because we are moving downward,” Duncan said.
She said talking to doctors during Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting was incredibly helpful, as they answered questions about social distancing guidelines and whether children are known to be spreaders of COVID-19.
Duncan told WAVE 3 News Wednesday night she had not come to a conclusion on how she would vote yet and planned to continue to read up on CDC guidance and the Kentucky Department of Education’s new guidance for reopening schools.
“What I can say is that I’m more open to the ideal of our trying this and trying this in a hybrid manner so that we have as few kids exposed as possible,” Duncan said.
Jefferson County District 6 Board Member Corrie Shull told WAVE 3 News Wednesday he was feeling stressed, as he was still in the middle of reading the KDE’s latest 136 page recommendation for schools.
“I’m taking into consideration the safety of the community, the safety of children, the safety of staff, teachers, support staff, custodians, bus drivers, food service workers. I’m taking into consideration the 24-percent of African American students who live with grandparents who are age 60 year or older,” he said.
“I’ve been in many of these buildings,” he said. “I know we have classes in spaces that were not designed for classes. I know some of these ventilation systems work poorly. We have classrooms that don’t have a window. We have classrooms where the windows don’t open.”
He also said equity is a big thing he’s considering before the vote as well. He’s concerned about the students who have not been logging into NTI.
“I’m concerned about the students who have received failing grade. I’m concerned about the 70-percent of black students who are not performing at grade level as of 2018-2019. My question is why are we not prioritizing them to bring back in schools first? It seems to me that we are prioritizing a student population that is doing well on NTI. They’re doing weak academically, they might be needing some social and emotional support.”
Sarah McIntosh said in an email regarding her stance: “I understand the concerns some have about safety and do believe that everyone in the district office and within our schools is working diligently to address and mitigate those issues. It is a historical failure of society that many necessary services for students are accessible primarily through our schools. While many charitable organizations and even corporate sponsors have done incredible work this last year for which I am grateful, they have not been able to fill the gaps. Because of that, I support opening an in-person option for our students barring any drastic or catastrophic changes to the situation. I know that not everyone will agree but ultimately, I believe it to be best for our community’s students.”
During Tuesday night’s board meeting, Dr. Chris Kolb expressed his concerns with returning in person, unless the CDC and KDE guidelines are followed.
“Putting kids less than six-feet apart from one another and making adults be less than six-feet apart from one another is not only insane at this point, it’s completely unethical,” he said Tuesday night.