JCPS rolls out NTI info, including new Support Portal

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio appeared before press on Friday to announce new information regarding distance learning.

Screencapture+from+March+27+press+conference+with+superintendent+Dr.+Marty+Pollio

Screencapture from March 27 press conference with superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio

Words by Ysa Leon, Sylvia Cassidy, and guest contributor, Reece Gunther

On March 27 JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio revealed a Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) Support Portal to aid students, teachers, and guardians in navigating distance learning in the coming weeks.

“NTI is going to be difficult; there’s no doubt about it,” Pollio said, reinforcing the need for a platform like this to guide parents and students. 

On the Support Portal, students can access assignments from teachers at their own school as well as Choice Boards made for each grade level. Parents can access instructional tools and tutorials to aid them in helping their student.

Pollio cited four main goals for the district moving forward with online instruction: Health of students and faculty, student support, communication between teachers and students, and, most importantly, flexibility. 

“NTI is going to be built on flexibility,” Pollio said, ensuring students that they won’t be held to traditional school hours of 7:40 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

Pollio once again addressed what he is now calling the “digital divide” between students with and without internet or computer access, which will both be crucial in completing NTI coursework. 

“The digital divide is pretty big in our community,” Pollio said. 

Starting Monday, March 30 families will have the ability to request a Chromebook, either through a link sent via email to known students-in-need or families can call a phone number to request one. If there is a higher demand than devices available, the district will implement a lottery system.

JCPS will provide one Chromebook per family, and although it’s “not ideal” for families with three or four students, “providing a Chromebook and connectivity is going above and beyond what any other district is doing,” Pollio said.

Exceptional Child Education and special education students will also receive a hotspot, should their family need one, so that student support and services can be provided to them virtually. 

While funding for the hotspots is still uncertain, Pollio said that he’s exploring partnerships with local foundations, Metro Louisville, JCPS’s budget, and also exploring options for funding through the federal stimulus bill. 

Starting Monday JCPS will also distribute paper copies of Choice Boards, supplemental learning packets for families without internet access until students can access NTI, at emergency foods sites with new ones going out the following week.

“Teachers will eventually provide assignments and Choice Boards will be secondary, for students who need them,” Pollio said.

The lunch site’s schedule will also change to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday and Wednesday students can receive four meals to cover regularly provided breakfast and lunch, and on Fridays they will receive two. 

However, Pollio said the district curriculum will largely be focused around the Choice Boards for the first couple of weeks to give families time to explore options for internet connectivity.

JCPS has made no official decision on grading through the NTI system, but is looking for the best method to keep students on track. The district has considered using a pass/fail system, which Pollio admitted is not ideal for graduating seniors. He ensured students that it will not significantly impact their existing grades. They will share their guidelines after communicating with the State Board of Education how grading will impact programs such as KEES scholarships.

“It’s really important that we don’t have kids harmed significantly from this—that we don’t have a significant number of students that don’t graduate or are retained when they were scheduled to move on,” Pollio said.

Students working on credit recovery or taking classes through JCPS eSchool shouldn’t be impacted by NTI, and many of those students have continued their classes these past two weeks. 

Towards the end of the press conference, Pollio also expressed his doubts about returning to school and said that teachers were encouraged to “prepare for at least six weeks of NTI”. 

“There’s a major concern that we might not see our students all the way from March 13 until August 15,” Pollio said.

With the use of NTI rather than in-person instruction, Pollio worries that the district’s 33,000 chronically-absent students, and even the 55,000 students that miss more than six school days annually, might not have the support systems they need in place to be successful. 

“Nothing replaces face-to-face instruction,” Pollio said, speaking to the impact that school structure has on at-risk students. 

In order to be counted present during NTI, a student must ‘communicate’ with their teachers at least once a week which can be as simple as completing an assignment or emailing a teacher. 

Subsequently, the district is focusing on communication with students to make sure that they have an equitable chance at success. 

Pollio announced his hopes that Wednesday, June 3 will likely be the last day for JCPS students. He discussed several workarounds to prevent school from going through the current last day of school, June 11. 

Pollio said he will ask the JCPS Board of Education to waive four of the 10 days missed prior to spring break, and what would have been Oaks Day and the former Primary Election date (May 19) will become instructional days.

The superintendent also announced that, fortunately, no employees or students have tested positive for COVID-19, the virus that has perpetuated school closings.

You can watch the full conference with Dr. Pollio here