3 minute read

After a pandemic year that seemed 10 years long, things have dramatically changed since I last wrote about reopening JCPS ahead of the JCPS Board of Education vote February 26th.

So much so that we’ve decided that our JCPS students are going back to school, in-person, starting Thursday. This is something I did not expect to happen because I could not anticipate the progress we’ve seen. I’m not sure anyone did.

I know most JCPS families have been making decisions to stay remote or go in-person. I think it’s important to have more of these conversations out in the open and to share, so in that interest here is our family’s “why”:

First and foremost, during the February 25th JCPS Board of Education meeting, Council member Chris Brady “called an audible”. It had become clear that council members were still very concerned about JCPS’ ability to reopen safely with appropriate social distancing five days a week. Mr. Brady made the motion for JCPS to reopen using a hybrid plan where students would be split into two groups, each attending school 2 days a week.

The ground shook. For many parents concerned about social distancing, this would mitigate that issue. For the Superintendent and public health officials pushing full-time in-person schooling, this was more than a bit of a rebuke. For individual schools, this threw weeks of hurried planning out the window.

Personally speaking, this was a surprise. There had been no conversation around any sort of alternative plan to reopening. When he made that motion, I was gobsmacked! That feeling quickly faded to a realization that this hybrid plan was precisely what the Kentucky General Assembly was also suggesting (and would eventually become law thanks to House Bill 208). It overcame one of the biggest flaws in JCPS’ plan.

After further debate and comment - including a critical request for JCPS to put forth an Equity Plan to address achievement gaps - the Board passed the motion, effectively reopening JCPS to in-person learning.

The effect was dramatic - almost immediately you could see elementary families shifting their preferences to in-person school (see the live dashboard of preference here). In LPAS’ case, this has gone from 68% in-person to 80% in-person. Overall, the district has moved from 58% to 64%. Elementary schools have shown the biggest movements.

The option to have your students stay remote in non-traditional instruction (NTI) was and still remains. That’s where my family was after the February 26th meeting for my students. Only recently did we make the decision to move our students to in-person, and here’s why:

  1. Vaccine rollout is moving quickly (and positivity rate is falling)
  2. My wife is now fully vaccinated (as is the majority of my older extended family) & I hope to be fully vaccinated very soon
  3. Safety plans have been updated and detailed for both schools
  4. We have the ability to drop off and pick up our students from school - avoiding the bus.

In short, the virus is being combatted effectively, JCPS finally offered a plan that addresses major risks, and we have the ability to mitigate our personal risks.

But it is important to me to not forget that all families are not my family. They do not share our situation or our privileges. Many families are opting to not go back because of lingering risks and their inability to mitigate them. So, as a community that pushed for in-person schooling because of achievement gap concerns, now’s the time to follow through for those who need it most. (And psst… these gaps didn’t start with the pandemic).

All signs currently point to progress in tamping down the virus and being able to reopen schools with recognized risks mitigated. But it’s not time to stop focusing on safety, schools or achievement.

We are going to be living with the pandemic for the foreseeable future, and fights like what we just had have shown us where our weak spots are. Here on the cusp of reopening, I’m proud of the work that the Board and JCPS teachers and staff put forward to come to this solution, and I’m interested to see where we go from here. Summer and it’s own challenges are right around the corner - and then fall semester.