NTI to continue for semester, school board plans for in-person next year

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Fayette County School Board decided to stick with online learning through the rest of the semester, but plans on students returning to class, five days a week, in January.

The board met Monday to discuss options.

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District spokesperson Lisa Deffendall went over survey results. An overwhelming majority of families and staff said they want to return in person using a hybrid model.

The survey also revealed that middle-schoolers would rely heavily on bussing to and from school.

Targeted services have been offered to some students for the past week. Superintendant Manny Caulk says it’s been great to see the joy on their faces.

“To see our students back in the classroom, see students 6 feet apart, and I made a statement that you can see their smiles through the mask,” Caulk says.

Several educators presented models for hybrid learning, which were unique to their schools. The board acknowledged that different schools would likely develop different plans.

Some of the plans were in an AA/BB hybrid model, meaning some students would be in class two days a week, the others would take another two, and one day, everyone would learn online.

However, board members say that would be a setback for all, so they’re glad a 5-day in-person plan is in the works.

“From a parent’s perspective, we need more than two days,” says Board Member Christy Morris. “We have families who are working and with those families, I think this would bring more chaos.”

“Speaking as an educator, that’s a lot of work,” says Board Member Tyler Murphy. “First we ask them to reinvent the wheel for NTI-2DL. My fear with what I’m seeing is it’ll be reinventing the wheel yet again.”

Families will still be able to opt for online learning if students do return to the classroom next semester.

The board plans to meet again on Monday at 6 p.m.

SCHOOL BOARD PRESS RELEASE

Fayette County Public Schools students will have the option of returning to in-person learning five days a week in January, said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk, summarizing unanimous input from Fayette County Board of Education members at a special called meeting on October 21. Families will also have the choice of selecting remote instruction for their students.

Major agreements stemming from the board’s discussion include:

  • Fayette County Public Schools will continue offering Non-Traditional Instruction: Differentiated Distance Learning (NTI: 2DL) for the remainder of the fall semester.
  • Schools will continue to provide targeted services for small groups of students and possibly expand offerings. Leaders will also look at how best to support our preschool students.
  • FCPS will prepare for a return to in-person learning five days a week in January, provided conditions with the virus are safe. Families will have the option of sending their children to campus five days a week or selecting remote instruction. Employees will also have the opportunity to share their plans in advance of a return to in-person learning. Family interest and staff availability will help schools devise the best instructional plans for students in both cohorts.
  • Families whose children are currently enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy will have the opportunity to remain with VLA, or choose either remote or in-person learning for the second semester.
  • The open enrollment window for the second semester of the Virtual Learning Academy will be from Nov. 2 through the 16th. Those interested in the ability to learn anytime, anywhere at their own pace during the second semester will be able to apply for that option.

Caulk thanked the more than 33,000 families and employees who participated in surveys about the possible return to in-person instruction with a hybrid model phasing in at the elementary level beginning the week of November 2.

Overall, 82 percent of staff and families indicated a preference to return to in-person instruction, while 18 percent expressed a desire to continue with remote learning.

“The vast majority of our families and staff want to return to in-person learning,” Caulk noted.

However, many also expressed concerns about the disruption of doing so just two days a week.

During the board meeting, teachers and district leaders presented sample school instructional models designed to be used under a hybrid scenario in which two groups of students rotate between in-person learning two days a week and learning at home three days a week.

After seeing how that model could work in different schools, board members raised concerns that the hybrid proposal would provide less direct instruction from teachers than students are currently receiving through NTI: 2DL. This sentiment was also shared by families on the survey and educators working on hybrid plans at the school level.

After district leaders presented an instructional model in which all students would either learn in-person every day or remotely every day, board members expressed unanimous support for moving ahead with that structure.

All five school board members voiced a commitment to returning to in-person learning with a model that allows families to choose between remote learning or in-person instruction five days a week. Rather than disrupt class schedules and teacher assignments at this point in the semester, school and district efforts will focus on preparing for a smooth transition in January.

District and school leaders will continue to share more details with employees, families and community members as our schools develop instructional plans to serve students in both the remote and in-person cohorts.