UPDATE: Fayette special schools stick with plan, will reopen March 22

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Graphic courtesy: MGN Online

UPDATE POSTED 8 P.M. MARCH 16, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Despite continued transportation challenges, Fayette County Public School administrators are sticking with plans to return next week to in-person classes for the district’s special programs.

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Below is the letter sent Tuesday to parents, families and stakeholders:

Dear Fayette County Public Schools Families:

Just like our clocks, our return to in-person learning leapt forward this week with the arrival of our students in preschool, and grades 7, 8, 10, and 11 at school on Monday. With students at every grade level now back on campus, we feel reconnected and reenergized about the days ahead.

Our community continues to harness the spread of COVID-19 and today’s 7-day average of new cases has fallen to 41! Each Tuesday, we review multiple data points as part of our FCPS In-Person Matrix, and we are pleased to report that all other indicators continue to support our return to campus.

Utilizing hubs, shuttles, vans and schedule adjustments, our transportation team has worked diligently to find a solution that will enable us to bring back the middle and high school students whose families have chosen in-person learning for the remainder of our special programs on Monday, March 22.

Families whose children are impacted have already begun to receive communication with specifics from Carter G. Woodson Academy, Eastside Technical Center, Family Care Center, Locust Trace AgriScience Center, Martin Luther King Academy, Opportunity Middle College, Southside Technical Center, STEAM Academy, Success Academy, The Learning Center, and The Stables.

As we pass the one-year mark of the pandemic, I believe we all recognize that our lives have been forever changed in some way by COVID-19. My hope is that the challenges of the past 12 months inspire us to all to make the necessary individual decisions in order to collectively keep the virus at bay so our schools can stay open.

With spring break on the horizon, we will need everyone’s help to avoid another surge of cases like the one we saw in January after winter break. Just this afternoon, the governor announced that a new variant of COVID-19 has been found in the Commonwealth. Now is not the time to let our guard down.

Unlike a year ago, we now know how to beat COVID-19.  Together we can and together we will!

Sincerely,

Marlene Helm

Fayette County Public Schools Acting Superintendent

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED MARCH 12, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fayette County Public Schools’ special programs and technical centers will reopen for in-person instruction, despite an ongoing bus driver shortage, on March 22, 2021, according to a letter sent out to families Friday by Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm.

The return to in-person learning was delayed for several special school programs because of the bus driver shortage, according to the district.

There is a new state law that stipulates all students must be offered in-person instruction by March 29, 2021.

An overview of the school district’s plans for special programs and technical centers, including transportation, is below from the letter sent home to families.

Dear Special Program Families:

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we developed alternate plans in order to provide transportation for students attending our special programs and technical centers. The pandemic exacerbated the bus driver shortage we have faced for years, and brought it to a critical point when we announced an exact date for the return of students.

Although we still do not have enough drivers to replicate the service we had a year ago, we have maximized all available resources and feel confident we will be able to welcome our students attending special programs back to campus beginning Monday, March 22.

Affected families and students will receive additional details from their specific program, but here is an overview:

For Carter G. Woodson Academy, STEAM Academy, Success Academy, The Learning Center, and The Stables:

  • All families who can provide their own transportation are encouraged to do so. Students who do not need school bus transportation will follow their regular schedule.
  • Those using FCPS bus transportation will be in-person from roughly 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.
  • Bus riders will catch their home high school morning bus to their districted high school and from there, transfer to a shuttle bus or van, which will deliver them to their special program.
  • Those taking the shuttles will have a slightly modified school day, and catch the bus or van back to their home high school in order to ride the high school neighborhood routes home in the afternoon.
  • Each program will make individualized arrangements for bus riders to receive the remainder of their instruction virtually.
  • Neighborhood high school bus routes can be searched by home address in the bus route finder link found at fcps.net/bus.

For Martin Luther King Academy:

  • School start and end times will change for students attending Martin Luther King Academy.
  • Beginning March 22, the school day will run from 10:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
  • Students will be picked up on neighborhood routes and transported directly to school.
  • Bus stop schedules will be available no later than March 18.

For Eastside Technical Center, Locust Trace AgriScience Center, and Southside Technical Center:

  • Students who attend one of our six comprehensive high schools and would normally receive a portion of their instruction on campus at one of our three technical centers will spend their entire day at their home high schools through March 19.
  • Starting the week of March 22, students who have their own transportation will return to the technical centers according to their morning or afternoon schedules.
  • Shuttle service for students needing district transportation will begin after spring break. 

For Opportunity Middle College:

  • Bluegrass Community and Technical College is still operating virtually, so students will continue to receive their dual enrollment content online.
  • Families will individually receive specific information prior to spring break about transportation arrangements for the high school component of their students’ coursework.

For Family Care Center:

  • Staff are working individually with students to overcome transportation barriers for those who want to come to campus to access teachers, childcare, and social services support.
  • Current students can contact their social worker or Vanna Armstrong with questions at (859) 288-4045.

Faced with a difficult situation, we have developed a workable, but imperfect plan. We remain committed to ensuring that every student whose family chose in-person learning has that opportunity, and we are using every available resource to make that happen. This may occasionally create some delayed or cancelled bus routes and we will notify families if such a situation should occur.

We are continuing efforts to recruit more bus drivers and hope to not only avoid interruption, but also to be able to expand transportation service as our staffing grows. Thank you again for your continued support and partnership.

Sincerely

Marlene Helm

Fayette County Public Schools Acting Superintendent

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