4 minute read

It’s February 23rd, and we are still awaiting a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Pollio on reopening JCPS to in-person schooling. What seemed like an inevitability only a couple of weeks ago now appears to have been stopped in its tracks.

One might assume that with new CDC guidelines, the weight of the Presidency and vaccines behind reopening, this would be a slam-dunk, right? No.

It should have been, except that JCPS has failed until just recently to substantively listen to it’s two main bodies: the teachers and the families of students. It’s possible they have been listening and just not said anything - but that doesn’t explain the sudden about-face on a vote on reopening. What does explain it is the tide of feedback from teachers and families (in addition to the newly released CDC guidance) swamping JCPS’ rushed attempt to reopen schools in person.

So now, there is not currently a date set for reopening or a vote by the board to reopen.

We do, however, have another JCPS Board “Working Session” with medical experts to discuss CDC Guidelines tomorrow, February 23rd at 6PM on YouTube

The Jefferson County Teacher’s Associaton (JCTA) survey that was delivered Friday, February 12th, days before Dr. Pollio’s anticipated recommendation to reopen schools. After weeks of near-zero communication between JCPS and teachers, JCPS got an earful. 58% of teacheers said “no” to returning. There were “400 pages” of comment attached, according to the CJ’s Olivia Krauth. These concerns ran the gambit from student safety to the safety of teachers’ families at home, to employment and school function concerns. (Read more coverage of the JCTA survey from WDRB and the CJ) By the following Monday, JCPS and JCTA had struck a deal on reopening. The recommendation was put off indefinitely.

At the next JCPS Board Meeting on Tuesday February 16th, Dr. Pollio characterized the responses from teachers as “a lot of communication issues”.


During that same Board Meeting, the JCPS Board levied some of it’s most direct and focused questions to Dr. Pollio and the JCPS administration in attendance. It was welcome and representative of their increased focus and dedication to this challenge.

Since late January, the Jefferson County School Board has been responding to increasing intense public pressure. Scrolling back through the increasingly active Twitter feeds of board members, and in watching the (now weekly) board meetings on YouTube, you can see the Board finally get on top of a conflict they did not really want to or were prepared to have to adjudicate. Their increasingly critical, increasingly focused questioning - fueled by the concerns of teachers and families - have made it clear to JCPS that the Board isn’t ready to support reopening until concerns are met.

So - where does that leave us now?

If you remember, way back two weeks ago, Dr. Pollio said that we could be ready to reopen as early as mid-March. That appears unlikely now as tomorrow the JCPS Board of Education is hosting another “Working Session” with medical experts to discuss the CDC Guidelines with NO VOTE.

It appears that some of the teacher’s concerns were met in the deal struck, and JCPS is increasing its detailed communication to teachers and parents (watch the February 18 Town Hall Meeting that featured questions from JCPS families).

However, there are some concerns - like social distancing - that are unlikely for JCPS to overcome for those concerned. (See this exchange between Dr. Corrie Shull and Dr. Pollio from the 2/16 meeting). It will take some change in JCPS accomodations, some change in the pandemic for this to be overcome. The former is unlikely.

In addition, some JCPS teachers are struggling to scheddule vaccine booster shots, and detailed individual reopening plans have not been finalized by schools or communicated to teachers. I know these plans, which include details like “which teacher will my student be assigned” are being actively, hurriedly worked on in the two schools where I have students. I’m sure teachers will have plenty of questions - as will families when they are eventually communicated by the schools.

Which leaves us here - only 3 months to the end of the regular school year. Charitably, we could get elementary and middle schools back in late March, leaving two months, less Spring Break. Middle and high schools would operate on a hybrid schedule of remote and in-person school, meaning even fewer “in person” days for them.

And the US Department of Education wants schools to complete standardized testing:

My two students won’t be returning to school in-person this year largely because I don’t believe that JCPS can effectively mitigate the spread of COVID through social distancing, but also because I don’t believe that (and haven’t believed) that reopening for this short amount of time is worth the massive effort and disruption required. Let’s get people vaccinated and then reopen with quality in the fall.

Other required reading: WFPL: JCPS’ Reopening Plan: What You Need To Know My Twitter List of JCPS Board Members & Journalist