JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ky. — Temporary closures and pivots to NTI are impacting many Kentucky schools, but the largest district in the Commonwealth is looking to avoid that.

What You Need To Know

  • JCPS is turning to text messages to help notify families of positive COVID-19 test results

  • 9,000 students and about 3,300 staff are currently signed up for regular COVID-19 testing

  • Families must opt in on their phones to receive the notifications by texting “Y” to 67587

  • Jefferson Co. Teacher's Association backs vaccination mandate, testing requirement 

As more COVID-19 cases are popping up in students and staff, JCPS is launching a new technological approach to notify parents of positive cases.

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said the district has averaged 600 tests per day.

Polio announced the changes to how parents learn about positive COVID-19 cases or if their child has to quarantine.

“That will help us if we have to quarantine. We can text message immediately to the family and obviously get that information to them,” Pollio said.

Previously, students would receive a phone call from the district if they tested positive for the virus, but Pollio said that option is no longer feasible.

The school messenger system also sends parents or guardians a test message if their child has come in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

“Really, communication with families when there is a positive case for a student or the need to quarantine students because that has taken an immense amount of time,” Pollio said.

In order to perform more efficient and effective contact tracing for COVID-19, Eva Stone, Manager of District Health Services within JCPS, said these mitigation efforts will have a positive impact.

“It will tell them a little bit about the dates that they were exposed, the dates that is recommended that they quarantine,” Stone said.

According to school leaders, 9,000 students and about 3,300 staff are currently signed up for regular COVID-19 testing, but Stone said the goal is to sign up at least 10% of every school.

“The more that are signed up the more effective this program is to help our objective, which is to keep COVID-19 out of our schools and keep our students in,” Stone said.

Families must opt in on their phones to receive the notifications by texting “Y” to 67587.

“It is going to end this quicker and it is going to increase the chances of us staying in school and not be like many other districts who have had to shut down,” suggests Dr. Pollio.

SphereDX is planning to add more staff to respond to the increased demand, make people aware of sites with less volume and shorter lines and allow anyone in line by 7 p.m. to get tested. The testing centers are open from 3 – 7 p.m. weekdays, but will be closed on Labor Day.

A push to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or have weekly COVID-19 tests has gained momentum this week as union representatives backed the policy in JCPS.

Jefferson County’s Teachers Union, a labor group who represents JCPS employees, is calling for more to be done to protect students and staff from COVID-19.

”As horrifying as it is to lose a student I would also be equally horrified to kill one of their grown ups that cares and loves for them," said Teacher Association member Emilie McKiernan Blanton.

She said they voted this week to require staff members to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to regular testing.

“Just like we talk about public education is an investment in our future, this vaccinating, masking, socially distancing – those are investments in our children’s future,” said McKiernan Blanton.

The teacher’s association is advocating for educators to have the availability and resources in the event someone opposes getting it for various reasons.

“At the end of the day we are suffering from a massive teacher shortage across the nation that’s been bubbling well over a decade,” explains McKiernan- Blanton.

The Jefferson County Board of Education’s next meeting is scheduled for September 14.