LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After nearly a year of NTI and still no reopening date, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) are gearing up to welcome students back to the classroom pending a school board decision.

What You Need To Know

  • JCPS gearing up for return to in-person learning

  • Temperature checks, hand sanitizer, masks are all part of the return plan

  • District plans to use a hybrid system of remote and in-person learning for middle and high school

  • It’s unclear when a final decision will be made for a back-to-school plan

Since the start of the school year, administrators like Gutermuth Elementary Principal Laura Mullaney have been preparing for the day when students would be able to return to in-person learning.

“We have been planning for months and months for our return to school. We adjust the plan as we get new information from the CDC and [Kentucky Department of Education],” explained Mullaney.

As soon as elementary students walk into the building, they’ll have their temperature checked. 

“If a student did not have a fever, the student would then go to the next spot you see on the floor right there is hand sanitizer as soon as they walk in. The very next step is the breakfast kiosk where they would pick up a grab-and-go breakfast,” Mullaney continued.

Then it’s off to their designated classrooms. Each classroom has received a COVID-19 makeover. Students can expect to find X’s on the floor, spaced-out desks, masked teachers, and signs on the wall reminding them to wash their hands and social distance. 

“If we must stay 6 feet apart, we can make that work. The other classroom has seats that are distanced are far as possible while still meeting CDC guidelines. In both classrooms, students are sitting forward, students are wearing masks,” added Mullaney.

Also, each student will be given hand sanitizer, then they’ll head to their assigned seat that will be theirs for the rest of the year.

Mullaney says the goal for this is to make sure students stay within their cohort to help with contact tracing if needed.

Ahead of the return to classrooms, school leaders provided more insight into plans for moving forward.

Eva Stone, manager of health at JCPS, said, “These are things we have to do be able to do in-person learning. We don’t want school start and then have to close it again. I think that everybody will continue to pay attention to these measures that are going to help us prevent transmission.”

At Central High School, Principal Raymond Green says the schools will remain flexible and listen to feedback from teachers and students.

The district plans to use a hybrid system of remote and in-person learning for middle and high schools.

“We’re taking a hard look at all of the details of our plan which involves arrival, dismissal, lunch, transitioning between classes, readjusting classes and schedules to make sure the students needs are met both virtually and in-person,” explained Green.

With 51% of his students opting to return to in-person, he says the school will look different once students are welcomed back on campus. Masks and temperature checks will be mandatory.

“The one good thing of having COVID[-19] under our belt is that our students understand this seriousness of this disease, and I’m very confident that our students will recognize that,” added Green.

With over three decades of teaching experience, Ann Walsh, English language teacher at Central High School, is ready for her students to return.

“They just need to be here and walk around and realize this is where they go to school. Right now, I’m their only connection, and the other teachers are their only connection to Central High School,” said Walsh.

The veteran educator says the pandemic offered a renewed push to rethink education.

“I’ve learned so much, so much about all kinds of new things that I can do as a teacher. I’m really thrilled with the possibilities now that we’ve learned about this,” she added.

Even with all the changes, Green and his team are excited to open and welcome students back, pending a decision from the Jefferson County Board of Education.

“I can’t predict the future. The best I can do right now is prepare to come back. I want to see us back. I want to see our kids,” said Green.

It’s unclear when a final decision will be made for a back-to-school plan.