The Jefferson County Board of Education approved an equity plan ahead of reopening its schools at a board meeting Tuesday night.It was the first meeting held in-person since before the pandemic began.For the last two weeks, JCPS staff have been working to implement Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio’s plan for returning to in-person classes, but one thing was missing from that plan.”Racial equity is a pillar of ours and that should have been included in the presentation all along the way,” Pollio said.In the two weeks since the board requested the equity plan, a team of school staff, community leaders, and national experts on racial equality have been drafting the equity plan to address some of the short-term and long-term needs of the district.Some of the short-term plans include making sure there is a nurse on staff at each school, deploying extra central office staff to assist schools and resources to deal with potential trauma resulting from the pandemic.The district will also be recruiting retired counselors and offering other resources to help seniors with college planning.”Our first goal is going to be to get them to graduation. That is going to be our first goal that they meet the requirements for graduation,” Pollio said.Board member Corrie Shull expressed concern about how the district would guarantee that those who need the extra services actually receive them. So far more than 4,000 students haven’t responded when asked if they would be returning to in-person classes. Some students have also been absent from virtual learning and not been able to be reached.”It is extremely critical that we identify the students that need the most help,” Pollio said.Pollio says staff will likely be going door-to-door to engage some of those students once in-person classes resume and they have a better idea of who they need to contact. The short-term goals of the plan will be implemented in the next 1-90 days, but the long-term plans are expected to be implemented over the next five years.Some of the long-term goals include mandatory district-wide training on racial trauma, providing all teachers with a racial equity growth goal, and offering health clinics on weekends in designated areas. The district is also creating a hotline for concerns on culturally insensitive practices and racism.But Pollio warned there also needs to be some big changes to the district’s overall curriculum.”The foundation of this district has not changed in three decades that I know of,” Pollio said.Specifically, he wants to see the district reevaluate student assignments, extend school hours, increase summer school programs, and improve facilities.”If we are going to change outcomes we’ve got to make big changes and I think we’ve tinkered around the edges a lot and I know being in this district as long as I’ve been change is difficult and hard,” Pollio said.Board member Joseph Marshall agreed there needs to be big changes to bridge the gap in racial equality.”We have to acknowledge that there is a system that wasn’t built to be racially equitable,” Marshall said.One of the changes Pollio most wants to see is a more authentic assessment of student achievement.”I’m hoping we are moving nationally to a more authentic assessment where we authentically assess a student’s ability and not necessarily just based on a standardized test,” Pollio said.Board Chair Diane Porter requested an outside company do a review of all the district’s facilities and outline a plan for which buildings need to be repaired or replaced. Pollio supported the idea adding that many buildings are well past the point of needing to be updated.The district has made required repairs to HVAC systems across the district to allow for safe reopening and expects to have them all completed by the end of the week. Crews have also done an inventory of all windows and put in work orders to repair ones that don’t open to allow for proper ventilation.”We still have a lot of work to do and a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident our schools are going to be ready,” Pollio said.The board also approved a request for temporary pay increases for some of the district’s essential staff including bus drivers, custodians and substitute teachers. Pollio said the increase is necessary to make sure the district is able to provide the necessary staffing to reopen safely.JCPS students will begin returning to in-person classes next week.

The Jefferson County Board of Education approved an equity plan ahead of reopening its schools at a board meeting Tuesday night.

It was the first meeting held in-person since before the pandemic began.

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For the last two weeks, JCPS staff have been working to implement Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio’s plan for returning to in-person classes, but one thing was missing from that plan.

“Racial equity is a pillar of ours and that should have been included in the presentation all along the way,” Pollio said.

In the two weeks since the board requested the equity plan, a team of school staff, community leaders, and national experts on racial equality have been drafting the equity plan to address some of the short-term and long-term needs of the district.

Some of the short-term plans include making sure there is a nurse on staff at each school, deploying extra central office staff to assist schools and resources to deal with potential trauma resulting from the pandemic.

The district will also be recruiting retired counselors and offering other resources to help seniors with college planning.

“Our first goal is going to be to get them to graduation. That is going to be our first goal that they meet the requirements for graduation,” Pollio said.

Board member Corrie Shull expressed concern about how the district would guarantee that those who need the extra services actually receive them. So far more than 4,000 students haven’t responded when asked if they would be returning to in-person classes. Some students have also been absent from virtual learning and not been able to be reached.

“It is extremely critical that we identify the students that need the most help,” Pollio said.

Pollio says staff will likely be going door-to-door to engage some of those students once in-person classes resume and they have a better idea of who they need to contact. The short-term goals of the plan will be implemented in the next 1-90 days, but the long-term plans are expected to be implemented over the next five years.

Some of the long-term goals include mandatory district-wide training on racial trauma, providing all teachers with a racial equity growth goal, and offering health clinics on weekends in designated areas. The district is also creating a hotline for concerns on culturally insensitive practices and racism.

But Pollio warned there also needs to be some big changes to the district’s overall curriculum.

“The foundation of this district has not changed in three decades that I know of,” Pollio said.

Specifically, he wants to see the district reevaluate student assignments, extend school hours, increase summer school programs, and improve facilities.

“If we are going to change outcomes we’ve got to make big changes and I think we’ve tinkered around the edges a lot and I know being in this district as long as I’ve been change is difficult and hard,” Pollio said.

Board member Joseph Marshall agreed there needs to be big changes to bridge the gap in racial equality.

“We have to acknowledge that there is a system that wasn’t built to be racially equitable,” Marshall said.

One of the changes Pollio most wants to see is a more authentic assessment of student achievement.

“I’m hoping we are moving nationally to a more authentic assessment where we authentically assess a student’s ability and not necessarily just based on a standardized test,” Pollio said.

Board Chair Diane Porter requested an outside company do a review of all the district’s facilities and outline a plan for which buildings need to be repaired or replaced. Pollio supported the idea adding that many buildings are well past the point of needing to be updated.

The district has made required repairs to HVAC systems across the district to allow for safe reopening and expects to have them all completed by the end of the week. Crews have also done an inventory of all windows and put in work orders to repair ones that don’t open to allow for proper ventilation.

“We still have a lot of work to do and a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident our schools are going to be ready,” Pollio said.

The board also approved a request for temporary pay increases for some of the district’s essential staff including bus drivers, custodians and substitute teachers. Pollio said the increase is necessary to make sure the district is able to provide the necessary staffing to reopen safely.

JCPS students will begin returning to in-person classes next week.

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