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JCPS closures force working Louisville parents to adapt

School buses line up outside of The Academy @ Shawnee on the first day of school for Jefferson County Public Schools.
J. Tyler Franklin
Many Louisville families have had to find alternate child care options and activities as Jefferson County Public Schools remain closed.

Jefferson County Public Schools will begin to reopen starting Friday, after six days of students missing classes. The closure has also affected thousands of families needing to find new child care options.

The state’s largest school district is also valuable for families who depend on the education system to take care of their kids during the day.

But after disastrous bus issues tainted JCPS’s first day last week, families have been left to figure out other options, especially with summer care programs over for the season.

Several community spaces and local organizations are providing programming and resources this week.

Blair Downs, director of marketing and communications for the YMCA of Greater Louisville, said her organization is extending its full-day Child Enrichment Program to Thursday, which normally operates as a before- and after-school program.

But that option isn’t available to all families.

Ben Cowan, an economics professor at Washington State University, co-authored a paper last year on how long-term COVID-19 school closures affected working parents.

“School closures sort of disproportionately fall on individuals with less education and working in these occupations where you can't just transition to a home-working environment,” Cowan said.

Shorter-term closures allow working parents to use sick days and vacation days, even if that’s not appealing, and more people have access to remote work than before the pandemic, he said.

Sarah McIntee and her 5-year-old daughter joined other families at the Crescent Hill library on Tuesday afternoon for a toys and crafts activity.

McIntee said while her family was able to adapt, the closures are frustrating because her daughter just started kindergarten at the J. Graham Brown School.

“I work from home, we're lucky to have supportive grandparents. But it's just still challenging… She had the best first day. And then now we've lost all momentum,” McIntee said.

The plan announced by district superintendent Marty Pollio late Monday will send the youngest students back to school Friday, and high schoolers will return next Monday.

Alysia Palmoutsos was also at the library with her two children, one of whom attends Bloom Elementary. She said her mother-in-law has helped take care of the kids on days Palmoutsos works.

“We kind of had a big work week this past week. And so she helped out. And we've just found things to do,” Palmoutsos said.

She said while her children weren’t late to return home during the bus fiasco last week, what other families went through troubled her.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.