‘There’s nothing that can replicate Indiana basketball.’ High school coaches make instructional videos Wednesday, Apr 1 2020 

Southern Indiana coaches made instructional videos aimed at all skill levels that can teach basic fundamentals and skills at home.


What does JCPS’ move to non-traditional instruction mean for students? Monday, Mar 30 2020 

JCPS will launch its NTI plan for students Tuesday, April 7.


How Will Remote Instruction Work for JCPS? Here Are Details Friday, Mar 27 2020 

How is JCPS NTI plan going to work?Jefferson County Public School superintendent Marty Pollio announced details Friday on the 100,000-student district’s plan for remote instruction while schools are closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Remote instruction, or nontraditional instruction (NTI), begins officially Apr. 7, and will run until at least Apr. 20. For students who have Internet access and a device, instruction will be offered online primarily through Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a web platform where teachers and students can post and grade assignments and instructional material, and message back and forth with students.

Here is the JCPS NTI homepage, where parents, teachers and students can access online instruction.

For students who do not have access to the Internet or a device, the district is offering paper packets of materials for each grade level. These are available at the dozens of meal sites around the county, where families are already going for free breakfasts and lunches.

Meal sites have been offering service each weekday. But starting Monday, Mar. 30, they will go down to three days a week to reduce contact between staff and families. Sites will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Monday and Wednesday, students can take extra meals to get through the off days in between.

A spokesman for the district, Mark Hebert, said teachers would not be collecting the paper copies from students until in-person classes resume. Any feedback for students using paper copies, he said, would be given on the phone, or through email or online if that’s a possibility for families.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Pollio said. “Nothing replaces face-to-face instruction.”

But he said the district will do it’s best under the circumstances. One major guiding principal for NTI, Pollio said, is flexibility for families and teachers.

“This is not necessarily going to be the 7:40 to 2:20 or the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. type of school,” he said. “Students can log on or do the work at various times throughout the day, and the same with our teachers.”

Students without Internet or devices

One major challenge for the district will be engaging students who do not have Internet access or a device. More than 60,000 students in the district face economic hardship, and many do not have a computer or reliable internet access.

“We have this divide,” Pollio said. “And it’s really around this opportunity gap, which was my major concern in taking on NTI.”

The district has collected 25,000 Chromebooks from schools around the district to redistribute to students who need them. Chief Information Officer Kermit Belcher said the district is sending emails to families who are on free or reduced-price lunch with information on how to request a Chromebook. Families can receive one per household. The district is sending them through the mail.

While many families may not have a computer, Belcher said many do have access to a smartphone with email. He said the district is also reaching out by phone to some families who do not have email, and that considerations are being made for English Language Learners (ELL) and students and students with disabilities.

If more Chromebooks are requested than are available, the district will use a lottery system.

When it comes to reliable Wi-Fi, Pollio said the district is still in talks with Louisville Metro government and Internet providers. Spectrum is offering free Wi-Fi for 60 days to households with school-aged children.

Special Education

Another “huge challenge,” Pollio acknowledged, is providing special education to students with individualized education plans (IEPs). The district has about 13,000 students receiving special education.

“There is no perfect plan for replacing the resources a child has at the school and in the classroom,” he said. But he said the district is going to try to provide as much as it can virtually, including services like occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Pollio said JCPS is buying 6,000 internet hot spots to distribute to special education students who do not have home Wi-Fi.

Attendance and students in need

Under state guidance, Pollio said, students will be counted present if they interact with their teacher once a week. That could be a message, a phone call, or turning in an assignment.

“But we want to far exceed once a week,” Pollio said, especially for students who teachers know need extra support, or who receive additional services at school.

Pollio said he has a “high, high level of concern” for the 30,000 students who are already chronically absent and for students who receive extra services at school, like special education, mental health care, or help learning English.

“When we return, we know we’re going to have to make significant changes to meet those needs,” he said.

Non-teaching staff

A spokeswoman for the district said non-teaching staff will still be paid while schools are closed. That includes staff whose usually jobs can’t be done from home, like maintenance and bus drivers.

“We have figured out ways for people to work still and not be in their traditional work place,” spokeswoman Renee Murphy said.

Bloom Teachers Parade Through Neighborhood To Connect With Students Thursday, Mar 26 2020 

Students, parents, and teachers exchange enthusiastic waves and greetings from a distance during today's Bloom Elementary Staff Parade. School staff organized the parade is an effort to remind students that their teachers are thinking of them while schools remain closed.Some Jefferson County teachers found a creative way Thursday to reach out to their students while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and staff from Bloom Elementary School formed a motorcade and drove up and down the streets of the Highlands neighborhood around the school.

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Students, parents, and teachers exchange enthusiastic waves and greetings from a distance during today’s Bloom Elementary Staff Parade. School staff organized the parade is an effort to remind students that their teachers are thinking of them while schools remain closed.

A cacophonous chorus of car horns and cheers rose from the streets as Bloom teachers, staff and families in the motorcade honked, and waved from their cars. Some had balloons or homemade signs telling students how much they missed them.

Families came out of their houses to wave from the sidewalk, enjoying one another’s company from a safe distance. Some families drove in from farther away, and waved from their own cars parked along the road.

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Students, parents, and teachers exchange enthusiastic waves and greetings from a distance during today’s Bloom Elementary Staff Parade. School staff organized the parade is an effort to remind students that their teachers are thinking of them while schools remain closed.

Kentucky schools are closed until at least Apr. 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the state is telling districts to plan remote instruction to May 1.

Teachers and staff from Slaughter Elementary are holding a similar parade on Friday, Mar. 27 at 1 p.m.

Chauncey Elementary had a car parade on Wednesday.

Structure, Self-Care Important For Parents And Kids During The Coronavirus Pandemic Thursday, Mar 26 2020 

Kristen Hayden (left) and Meredith Beavans were at Cherokee Park with their daughters for a rare play date during the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor’s note: The interviews with parents and children in this story were recorded at Cherokee Park in Louisville on Monday, March 23, one day before playgrounds were ordered closed.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for pretty much everyone, especially for families with children. Closures of schools and businesses due to the coronavirus have upended schedules, forced friends and family members apart, and many parents have lost their jobs. And on top of all of it, parents are trying to keep their children engaged in learning.

Psychologist Judith Danovitch has some advice for parents on how to cope.

“The Days Feel Long”

Most schools in Kentucky have been closed for more than a week, and if there was any sense of adventure or novelty in the beginning, it’s starting to wear off.

“It’s not like Christmas break, or spring break or summer break even,” Louisville mom Kristen Hayden said.

She and her 6-year-old daughter Charlee were at Cherokee Park recently. Hayden teaches at Second Presbyterian Weekday School – the same preschool her daughter attends. With school closed, she spends the whole day one-on-one with her daughter, trying to come up with new things to do.

“The days feel long,” Hayden said. “You know it’s like, ‘what can we do next? Alright, what are we gonna do now?’ I’m always trying to come up with ideas. And I’m a preschool teacher! I have lots of ideas!”

This week the sun finally came out, so Hayden brought Charlee to the park for a play date with her friend Elsa. Elsa’s mom, Meredith Beavans helps the girls map out a race course around the picnic area.

“We try to do a lesson in the morning. Thankfully her teacher sent home some paperwork,” Beavans said.

Beavans and her husband both still work. Beavans changed her schedule so she can watch Elsa during the day, and then trade off with her husband so she can work part-time during the evening. It’s going OK, but it’s sometimes hard to get Elsa to focus on school work.

“Once she gets into it she normally does OK. Do you like doing your lessons?,” she asked Elsa.

“No,” Elsa said. “I don’t.”

Structure Is Key

With the huge changes to daily life families are dealing with, psychologists say creating a predictable structure to the day can be a powerful coping mechanism.

“This is important for kids of all ages,” University of Louisville psychology and brain science professor Judith Danovitch said. “It’s important for kids to have a sense their days are going to be predictable and they can know what to expect.”

As much as possible, Danovitch said, try to get up at the same time, eat meals at the same time and plan some kind of educational activity for the same time every day. It’s also important to build in breaks and play time. If children are old enough, Danovitch recommends including them in the process of creating a schedule.

Danovitch said scheduled day promotes learning, and reduces stress and anxiety during a really scary time.

“We might not know on a global scale what’s going to happen,” Danovitch said. “But you can know in your what’s going to happen in your house.”

“Be Kind To Yourself”

Some households are going through more stress than others right now. Bobbi Jo Kingery heads up the PTA for an area in Louisville’s South End. She said many parents she’s in touch with have lost jobs because of business closures. Others have lost work because of school and child care center closings.

“A lot of people are having to quit their jobs…and be that stay at home parent, because there is no other option,” Kingery said.

Kingery is a stay at-home-mom with a disability that prevents her from being able to work outside the home. Her husband, an electrician, still has work, for now. But they’re worried it might not last. They’re keeping their 13-year-old daughter on a schedule, making sure she spends time doing school work each day. But the stress for Kingery and many in her community is intense.

“Every aspect of life builds in on that stress, on top of you having to teach your child, and be here for your child and reassure your child that everything is going to be OK,” she said. “You have to be the ‘everything’ at this moment. And it’s hard to be that way,” she said.

It is hard. That’s why Danovitch said one of the most important things for parents to do right now, is be kind to themselves.

“Be kind to your child, but also be kind to yourself,” she said. “You’re not going to suddenly turn into a well-trained teacher.”

Even if you are a teacher, she said, you shouldn’t expect to be able to deliver instruction at home under these circumstances in the same way you would at school.

She said parents shouldn’t worry if the schedule they plan doesn’t pan out, or if they struggle to explain a concept.

“It’s not going to be perfect,” she said.

And that’s OK.

You can find resources for families online at kycovid19.ky.gov., and lots of free educational resources at wonderopolis.org  You can also call Jefferson County Public Schools for guidance at 3-1-3-HELP.

JCTC offers 4 free courses amid COVID-19 outbreak Wednesday, Mar 25 2020 

The courses begin April 1 and run through May 1.


Screen Time: A Second-Grader Talks About Learning During COVID-19 Wednesday, Mar 25 2020 

The coronavirus pandemic has millions of children out of school across the country, and the world. Parents are stressed, and kids are too. But they’re finding ways to make it work.

I met 9-year-old Arthur Cavallazzi while he was taking a bike ride with his family this week in Cherokee Park.

Here’s what he had to say about how things are going:


JCPS moves to non-traditional instruction until classes resume Tuesday, Mar 24 2020 

Students will be able to learn remotely beginning on April 7 until classes are scheduled to resume on April 20.


JCPS to remain closed through April 20, district works on plan for virtual learning Friday, Mar 20 2020 

Beginning April 7, the district will opt to use Non-Traditional Instruction days.


With Schools Shut Down, Ky. Teachers Are Teaching From Home Friday, Mar 20 2020 

Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts teacher KeNiesha Watkins works with her 4th grade student Addison over FaceTime during the school closure.School closures due to the coronavirus have millions of students out of school nationwide. But teachers are still trying to keep students engaged in learning.

From her apartment in downtown Louisville, Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts teacher KeNiesha Watkins was teaching a writing lesson Thursday afternoon through FaceTime.

“Ok, so we’re going to be working on ‘What is your favorite time of the year?'” Watkins explained to Addison, a fourth grader smiling back at Watkins from her iPhone screen.

Students have been out of school since Monday, when Jefferson County Public Schools and most other Kentucky school districts closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Addison had an idea for a writing prompt Watkins sent home in a big packet of activities, but she wanted some help structuring her essay.

“My favorite time of the year is whenever the holidays start. You know, like Christmas?” Addison said.

“OK! That’s perfect, I love that!” Watkins said.

Like all Kentucky school districts, JCPS is going to Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI), to try to keep kids learning as much as possible while schools are closed. The JCPS board of education approved the district’s NTI plan Thursday night during a virtual meeting.

As part of the plan, JCPS district staff put together a bank of activities for each grade – students are supposed to complete at least five activities a week. Teachers, like Watkins, sent home optional extra work. Watkins spends most of her day answering questions from parents on Facebook and Class DoJo, classroom communication app. But Watkins said it’s not the same as seeing her students each day.

“It doesn’t feel right,” she said. “And I’m just trying to connect with the parents and the kids as much as I can.”

Watkins has a Facebook group for the class, where families have posted photos of students doing work, or just having fun. Watkins makes videos telling her class how much she misses them. She also calls, emails and messages families to check in.

One challenge so far for Watkins, and many teachers, is keeping kids engaged who don’t have a computer or internet. In Thursday night’s school board meeting, JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio warned moving to NTI “could expand the achievement gap.”

“The concern [is] that kids of means end up having computers and access to this quality instruction, and those that don’t have access to computers and connectivity fall farther behind,” Pollio said.

He said the district is planning to gather up 25,000 existing JCPS Chromebooks and distribute them to students in need. But many students also need reliable WiFi, and Pollio said he’s still in conversation with Louisville Metro government and internet providers about solutions.

He said the main challenge is negotiating with companies, “who are trying to make a profit as well.”

At least one company, Charter, has agreed to provide free internet for two months to households of K-12 and college students. But Pollio said they still need more companies to help.

Back in her apartment, Watkins was on a call with another student named Harlow.

Hey buddy, whatcha doing?” Watkins asked.

“Not much. I just had to take the dog out,” he told her. Harlow sounded kind of down, maybe a little bored. When Watkins asked what time of year he wanted to write about for his prompt, he told her Easter.

“I like Easter because me and all my family, like all 14 of the cousins, we all get together and we have a big Easter egg hunt, and we count our eggs,” he said. But then he went on to say he can’t see his cousins right now, because his family is using social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I bet that’s hard,” Watkins said.

Harlow agreed, it is.

It’s hard for Watkins too. She helped Harlow with his essay intro, then said goodbye, and hung up the phone.

“I miss them so much,” she said.

JCPS schools are tentatively scheduled to reopen April 6. But state leaders still don’t really know how long the closure will last. At Thursday night’s board meeting, Pollio said he thought it was “highly unlikely” students would return on April 6.

A big fear for Watkins is that they won’t come back before the end of the year, and she won’t get to finish out the school-year with her class before they move up to 5th grade.

“It can’t just end like that,” she said.

She was holding out hope they’ll get to come back. But if they don’t, she said, she’ll have some kind of celebration for them: “a real ending,” she said, “with ice cream.”

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