JCPS Board announces last day of school: June 3

The Board met virtually Tuesday, April 14 to discuss an update to the JCPS calendar, evaluation requirements, and other NTI issues.

JCPS+Board+of+Education+members+meet+virtually+via+Zoom+for+an+emergency+meeting.+Screen+captured+by+Sylvia+Cassidy.

JCPS Board of Education members meet virtually via Zoom for an emergency meeting. Screen captured by Sylvia Cassidy.

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

June 3 is now the last day of school, following a vote from the Jefferson County Board of Education to alter the 2019-2020 school calendar to account for missed instructional days as well as Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days. The Board also discussed the NTI system, technological equity, and the need for flexibility from both students and teachers.

The approved calendar proposal allows the district to make-up six instructional days instead of the 10 missed. May 1, the original Oaks Day, and May 19, the original primary election day are now NTI days. May 29 and June 1-3 will also be instructional days for the district.

“We will be closed through at least May 4 and I’ve also said multiple times that I think it will extend well beyond that, if not for the remainder of the school year,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said. 

JCPS has more instructional hours than the state requires, so the Board is only able to waive enough days to put the district at 1,062 instructional hours for the school year. To waive more days than that, the governor or state legislature would have to introduce legislation. 

“We do believe the governor will give us further guidance next week based on a call with KDE today,” Pollio said.

Pollio emphasized the effectiveness of the JCPS NTI system, flaunting a 90% participation rate for the district in the first week. Still, the district will continue to make every effort to reach out to the students that did not participate.

“I was very worried it would be much lower than that so I’m pleased with our families and our students,” Pollio said.

When explaining the necessity of the days missed to craft an NTI system that would achieve such a high participation rate, Pollio thanked JCPS staff responsible for developing curriculum and ensuring that all students had access to NTI material. 

“When school was canceled on that last day, a lot of districts went right into NTI the following Monday,” Pollio said. “We had three weeks to plan and I think that was the most beneficial decision we could have possibly made.”

Students will continue to utilize the NTI portal for their assignments, or if they don’t have online access, they can also pick up paper copies from the emergency food sites across the district.

“From the start, we provided what we call Choice Boards. They have 12 squares, and, in each square, there’s a different activity which very often leads to a backpack artifact,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Carmen Coleman said. “Beginning this week, we are providing reading and math practice in paper form at each of our feeding sites for grades K-12. Students in high school will have math packets according to course. We are also providing ACT practice for high school students.”

Teachers will contact students with technology limitations to ensure they understand the material and are making progress. However, even families that have access to technology are likely to be limited.

Because of this, Coleman emphasized the need for teachers to be flexible with students, especially when it comes to grading. 

“We certainly do not want to do anything but be a support for our students. To grade, as we typically do, is really grading what is happening to them currently, so we’re just not gonna do that. The key is flexibility,” Coleman said.

With the need for flexibility, it’s clear the district is heavily pushing an alternative grading system. For elementary and middle school students, the district is implementing a “met or not met” grading system based on standards, and for high schoolers, Pollio is strongly encouraging it.

Pollio cited standard-based grading as an effective alternative to traditional grading during times like these, and an alternative that many schools already utilize. 

“[Standard-based grading is] a big growth thing for any teacher and any school to navigate through. It’s a big change and we’ll continue to navigate through that,” Pollio said.

Further, students will not be penalized for not actively participating in NTI. Instead, teachers will assign an incomplete grade to students and work from there to get them caught up. 

Students ultimately will have opportunities to raise their grades, but no one is expected to be negatively affected due to the out-of-classroom structure.

“As difficult and challenging as this has been, all of us are really having to up our game with technology and we are learning a lot about what we can do, and we’re learning a lot about what our students can do,” Coleman said. “We will be better after this than we were before.”

Pollio cautioned teachers from assigning too much work to students and said that he has regularly been encouraging them to consider limitations in a household where one computer might serve several students and their parents. 

JCPS has distributed 406,645 meals since March 16, three times weekly with 175 employees servicing the distribution locations. 

These meals are only 20% of JCPS’s normal operations, bringing Diane Porter to question whether the other 80% of students that regularly eat breakfast or lunch from school are receiving quality meals while at home.

When NTI concludes, the district will be responsible for reporting to the Kentucky Department of Education to prove the effectiveness of NTI as an alternative to in-classroom instruction.

JCPS will present evidence of learning using examples of teacher lesson plans and student work, student participation through the Infinite Campus module and contact that students have with teachers, and teacher participation through time and attendance records.

Porter also stressed the importance of a celebration for everyone when school is back to normal. Pollio echoed that message and said the swift action taken by the governor and JCPS minimized the impact that COVID-19 had on the district.

“The health and wellbeing of the JCPS students, staff and families has to be the most important thing that we do,” Pollio said.