LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A group called “Let Them Learn” (LTL) came to the doorsteps of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) on Tuesday to demand the district reopen schools immediately.
It’s a choice, as parents, they said, that is theirs to make.
"You may not be someone who agrees that your children...should be back in school, and that’s fine," said Steve Ullum, the group's de facto leader. "That’s fine because what we’re fighting for is the right to have a choice."
LTL claims 1,600 JCPS parents as members, and Ullum said they began organizing in September of 2020.
As a handful of speakers took turns at a makeshift podium in the parking lot of the main JCPS office, others stood behind them — some with children — and held signs supporting a return to school. A banner of connected desk calendar pages was unfurled, with each date since the March closure crossed out.
Once Ullum paused to take questions, Spectrum News 1 reporter David Guildford pointed to the crossed-out calendars and asked him when during that timeline he and the other parents decided it was safe and necessary for schools to open.
"The answer to that question has evolved and changed with new data from the CDC; local expert medical advice. It's evolved and it's evolved and it's evolved," Ullum answered. "In the last 30 days, it's become abundantly clear that it is safe."
A JCPS mother named Brooke said her once pleasant and attentive son has grown uncontrollably angry and depressed as a result of nontraditional instruction.
"I’ve taken my son Jack to several doctors because I’m extremely worried about his emotional and mental health," Brooke said.
Beyond health, Alyson Cleyman, who has two children with special needs, said she had to stop working to be home.
"With [my daughter] being out of school, this is causing me to be out of work since March of last year and live off of unemployment benefits," Cleyman said.
One week before the press conference, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio and district staff detailed a plan to return in an hour-long presentation to the school board, which will have the final say.
"We believe this is a comprehensive plan that, just, months and months of planning have been put into this," Pollio said at the February 18 meeting. "And we look forward to implementing this plan and seeing our children again."
The school board has remained cautious, deliberating at length the risks and benefits of an early spring return.
For now, the doors remain closed.