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JCPS To Stay Open, Monitor Absences For Signs Of COVID-19 Outbreak

JCPS officials say they're working with the Louisville-Metro Health and Wellness Department to make decisions about whether to close schools.
JCPS officials say they're working with the Louisville-Metro Health and Wellness Department to make decisions about whether to close schools.

Jefferson County Public Schools will remain open for now. The county has one confirmed case of COVID-19.

"We will continue to have school at this time," JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio told reporters at a press conference Monday. "Kentucky health officials are not recommending closures at this time. But we do monitor that daily."

Pollio said health officials and the district will be closely watching student absences. Neither Pollio nor health department officials would give specifics about how they would decide whether to close schools.

"If we find that there is a risk to kids and the staff, then that would be when we would have that recommendation," Louisville-Metro Public Health and Wellness director Sarah Moyer said.

Asked for more specifics as to how the department determines the risk, Moyer said "there's lots of pieces that go into that puzzle, and it changes every day."

Schools in Harrison County closed this week after two cases were confirmed in the community.

JCPS Without Plan For Instruction, Meals During Potential Closure

Many Kentucky school districts have state-approved plans for providing instruction to students during closures for weather or flu outbreaks. It's called aNon-traditional Instructional plan or NTI plan. Eighty-three of the state's 172 districts have one. JCPS does not.

NTI plans can include online materials, paper worksheets or projects to do at home. Districts that have these plans can get up to 10 closures counted as instructional days – so they don’t have to make them up at the end of the year.

"The benefit is that learning continues," Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman said in an interview. She NTI plans can also save districts money because schools can continue to receive funds during closures, and they don't have to spend additional funds on make-up days.

Normally, districts have to submit their NTI plan to the department for approval several months before the start of a school year. But Tatman said in light of the new coronavirus cases, the department will waive the deadline, and allow districts to get plans submitted and approved for this school year.

"We are looking at ways to be as accommodating as possible," Tatman said.

Neither JCPS nor the state’s other large district, Fayette County Schools, has an NTI plan.

JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio said his district can’t carry out an NTI because not every student has a computer.

"We would struggle to make sure every student had some type of device to do that type of instruction," he said.

But Pollio said the district would provide supplemental materials online or in paper form if the district were to close.

When it comes to providing meals, the JCPS has not yet worked out a plan. About 65% of the district's 100,000 students are on free or reduced-priced lunch.

"That's something we would have to get more direction on with what our nutrition services can do, but we'd have to get more guidance from the health department," district spokeswoman Renee Murphy said.

Meanwhile in Harrison County, which has an NTI plan, students are supposed to be completing packets of instructional materials at home. According to the district's plan, these are available online and as hard copies to students who don't have internet access or a device.

Harrison County Schools is also providing lunch each day at two locations for students receiving free and reduced-price meals. The district's website says delivery is available for families who don't have transportation.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.