Thousands of students returning to school two days per week
It wasn't the typical first day of school which normally happens in mid-August, but it was the first day of "in-person school" for thousands of Jefferson County Public Schools middle and high school students, teachers and staffs on April 5th. JCPS middle and high schools have been closed since last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with students doing all remote learning. Approximately 32,000 middle and high schoolers (62 percent of the total) are expected to resume studies inside their school buildings, half on Mondays and Tuesdays and half on Thursdays and Fridays. All other students will continue with five days a week of online learning.
Central High School principal Raymond Green is expecting about 600 students to return for the two-days-per-week hybrid class schedule. He greeted the 300 or so who are on the Monday/Tuesday in-person schedule as they arrived for school, many saying they were happy to be back.
When JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio showed up for a first day visit, Green's enthusiasm shown through his face mask, telling Pollio "this is the best I've felt in a long darn time!"
In his Central High robotics lab/classroom, teacher Jim Gilbert handed robotics kits to seven students, something he couldn't deliver to them through a computer screen.
Ramsey Middle School 6th graders Burhan Dalati and Brady Davis also sifted through the robotics parts they received on their first day inside their new school. Burhan was glad to be in a live class instead of online. "I listen more in these classes" he said. "And it's fun" Brady added.
Teachers at Ramsey didn't miss a beat, moving their virtual lessons straight into their classrooms. Ramsey principal Terra Greenwell says all but a handful of her 700 returning students kept the same teachers they had in non-traditional instruction (NTI). That planning made the first day go "smoother than expected" according to Greenwell.
At JCPS' newest school, Grace James Academy of Excellence for girls, about 70 sixth graders arrived as the sun was rising. Those who rode buses were greeted with a "Welcome to Grace James!" from staff members and an archway made of blue and yellow balloons as they made their way into the building.
"I'm most excited to be meeting, in-person, all the friends and teachers I've met online" student Cadence Diggs said. "I'm also excited about the Afro-centric curriculum".
One of Cadence's teachers, Angelica Smith, couldn't contain her excitement about her STEAM lab and finally seeing the students who will be learning from her. "The feeling is indescribable" Smith said. "We finally get to have that real world, in-person, hands-on learning experience with our young ladies."
The teachers and staff at Marion C. Moore School had some fun with their students, wearing tutus and other odd items of clothing that Pollio and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer checked out during their visit to the school.
And before boarding their buses to head home from Westport Middle School, 6th graders Leonna Anthony and Alex Clarke talked to reporters about walking into middle school for the first time. "I just smiled" Alex said. Leonna admitted she was a little shaky in the morning.
"I was a little bit nervous but then I just put the happiness over me" she said.