More plans are emerging to possibly bring some students in Jefferson County Public Schools to the classroom in late February or early March, if Kentucky stays on schedule in receiving shipments from the coronavirus vaccine.

The more vaccines JCPS can get into school employees' arms, the greater grade levels it can available to in-person instruction, according to JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio.

“This is giving us lots of hope,” Pollio said from the vaccine during Tuesday night's Jefferson County Board of Education meeting.

Gov. Andy Beshear has said he'd like to begin Phase 1b vaccinations, including K-12 employees in late January or early February. Pollio told the board the first date for reopening will come after the first employees get the booster shot 4 weeks later.

Pollio said JCPS will probably be while using Moderna vaccine, which the FDA says is fully effective Seven days after the second dose. That would place the reopening around the first week of March in the earliest.

Pollio plans to open grade by grade, with the earliest grades first. The number of grades that could open at any given time would be in line with the number of available vaccines for teachers and staff.

Here's the amount of first-dose vaccines Pollio estimates it will require to open each grade level, assuming they receive a second dose 28 days later too.

Kindergarten: 4,427

K-3: 5,600

K-5: 6,225

K-8: 8,650

K-12: 11,500

PreK: 515

Pollio said central office staff who don't use children would be “at the back end” of the list for vaccinations.

The district can also be looking at ways to use the vaccination process to prioritize returning small groups of high needs students, for example those with disabilities, also referred to as ECE students.

“For example, if we said we only had enough to recover pre-K through [third grade], we would bring back all the elementary ECE students as well,” Pollio said.

According to Pollio, JCPS will be while using mass vaccination site at Broadbent Arena to inoculate employees.

“They obtain the vaccination while relaxing in their car. Then they pull out towards the parking area and wait about Fifteen minutes to 30 minutes…to make sure that there is no reaction to the vaccination,” he explained.

Since the Broadbent Arena website is drive-thru, Pollio said the district is focusing on finding transportation for employees who don't have access to an automobile.

And because vaccination isn't an option for most students, Pollio said the district continues to supply a fully virtual choice for the remainder of the school year, and perhaps in to the 2021-2022 school year.

In a parent or gaurdian survey conducted before the vaccine rollout, 59% of households said they would choose in-person learning whether it was an option, while 41% said they would remain virtual. Pollio said families may want to change their preferences based on the new accessibility to the vaccine.

According to the superintendent, Black families and other families of color were more likely to prefer the virtual option, “very understandably, because [coronavirus] is impacting [their] communities at higher rates,” he said.

Because their state receives a one-week notice of how many doses it will receive, Pollio said the district may have more information about how exactly many grades it can open, so when, in the meeting on Jan. 19.

Not All JCPS Employees Have Agreed To Vaccination

The district has reserved 12,884 vaccines for JCPS employees who signed up to be immunized, contributing to one more 900 for contractors who work in school buildings.

However, about 6,000 JCPS employees declined the vaccine or did not respond to laptop computer.

Pollio said some of the people 4,000 who didn't react to the survey could be substitute teachers or any other part-time employees who do not intend to return.

According for an executive order from the governor, districts aren't required to accommodate employees' requests to work remotely should they have refused the vaccine, and don't have a condition the CDC or FDA says prevents them from taking it.

JCPS attorney Kevin Brown said the district will attempt to utilize employees who refuse the vaccine and ask for an accommodation to work remotely.

“We might have a discussion between management and the employee, as we would use any accommodations, to see if there is an accommodation that meets their demands that doesn’t cause an undue hardship upon the business,” Brown said.

Small Group Workouts Allowed For Winter Sports

Members of the Jefferson County Board of Education dicated to begin allowing select few workouts for winter sports, including basketball, wrestling, swimming and competitive cheer. However the board decided to keep full practices and competitions postponed indefinitely, leaving JCPS among just a couple Kentucky school districts not participating since the KHSAA dicated to allow full practices to start Dec. 14.

Board members were split around the decision to obstruct the growing season. Staff presented the board several options for skiing, including some that will have allowed full practices to begin in a few days.

Board member James Craig was among three members who said he supported allowing full practices on Jan. 11.

“I realize that there's risk associated with it. However it appears to me to be a different question than returning to in-person instruction because our student athletes are opting in,” Craig said.

Board member Joe Marshall agreed, saying he was encouraged by the relatively low level of spread recorded during fall sports. JCPS data shows they tracked 58 cases between July and November, among a total of 3,248 fall athletes.

Member Chris Kolb was one of the most of members who were more hesitant, noting that skiing are played indoors, in which the coronavirus spreads more easily, which case numbers are much higher.

“I’m against allowing anything, for the time being,” Kolb said, “except perhaps for the small, pod conditioning.”

Board member Linda Duncan also was against beginning athletic practices or games, noting that some young adults who have recovered from the virus have been shown to have dangerous lingering impacts, for example swelling from the heart.

“It terrifies me,” she said. “The considered sending our athletes, who are not really likely to have time to do a lot of conditioning…back out onto the court.”

Board member Corrie Shull had exactly the same concerns.

“We have been in dire, dire times,” he said. “I think we should demonstrate taking precaution, and demonstrating that for our students and for this community.”

The board will monitor health data and reevaluate at its Jan. 19 meeting.

JCPS Bracing For Cuts

JCPS is facing a budget shortfall of $25 million dollars due to the pandemic, based on Pollio. And that he isn't convinced the millions in federal relief funding will be enough to plug your budget hole.

“This will support our students,” he explained, “but we will have a tough budget cycle ahead that we’re going to have to make difficult decisions.”

Much of the shortfall is due to a loss of revenue the district usually gets for providing free and reduced-priced lunches. The number of students going to meal pickup sites is simply a small area of the quantity of students who'd normally be served in class. Since the authorities reimburses districts per meal served, they are getting $18 million under anticipated in nutrition services revenue.

JCPS Chief Financial Officer Cordelia Hardin said $835 million is to be invested in K-12 schools in Kentucky — many times more than was made open to schools in the first CARES package. In addition, the federal government covers 55% of lost nutrition services revenue.

JCPS does not yet know what it's allocation is going to be in the CARES package.

The board will discover a draft budget at its next meeting.