Fayette school leaders adjust plans for a return to the classroom


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – COVID-19 cases and now winter storms have stopped students at Fayette County Public Schools in their tracks.

“There was a train and it was called winter weather and we just simply got slammed,” said Dr. Marlene Helm, FCPS interim superintendent.

District leaders said they plan to get back on schedule soon. Kindergarten through second graders will return to campus the week of Feb. 22-26, weather permitting. Then, grades 3-5 will be added on Wednesday, March 3.

“We have no intention to try to drag this out,”Dr. Helm said. “We have every intention of being as transparent as possible, it’s just that every plan that is written on paper doesn’t always unroll or unfurl the way that you want it to.”

Paul Phillips has twins in third grade and his wife teaches first grade.

“I do support the school system as a whole, but that doesn’t preclude me from also questioning some of the decisions,” Phillips said.

He said parents deserve more explanation and warning.

“Parents are trying to plan, they have jobs, they have work schedules, many of them can’t be changed on the drop of a dime,” Phillips said.

Dr. Helm said she wants each group of students, families and teachers to have time to settle back into a new routine once they return, then more grades can be added in layers.

“We know that the phase was to include grades six, nine and 12 and we are still very committed for those students to be brought back into the mix. We haven’t taken them out of phase two,” Dr. Helm said.

Phillips said, with many teachers so close to being fully vaccinated, he wonders what the rush is.

“My problem with the timing is that we’ve gone 11 months and now my wife just got the second vaccine shot last Friday, and we know that 7-14 days out is the peak effectiveness,” Phillips said.

Dr. Helm said she wants every student to be back in the classroom this year, but there are a lot of factors that play a role in the decision.

“We have every intention of bringing back every student. We are making every attempt to do that in a way that makes sure that we are respecting and caring for the health and safety of all of our students, families and employees,” Dr. Helm said.

The district said it’s also looking at the availability of other campus employees, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers, to determine when it’s the right time to bring some grade levels back inside.

The district currently has 34 openings for bus drivers. Leaders explained those positions must be filled so all students can return to school.

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