What to know for the next JCPS board meeting

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As debates over masks and “critical race theory” multiply and frequently merge, Kentucky’s next largest district school board meeting has the potential to be a perfect storm.

Jefferson County Public Schools have yet to release an agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting, but there are a few hot issues to be addressed at the last meeting scheduled before school starts on August 11.

As the aggressive COVID-19 Delta variant sends cases to the top, the seven-member school board will need to approve a reopening strategy that may or may not require masks for students – about half of whom are not old enough to be. vaccinated.

An introductory double credit Black Studies course to be offered with the University of Louisville has been in the works for months. Now all that is needed is for the board to approve, but its otherwise routine approval comes amid arguments over how race is discussed in classrooms.

The potentially contentious agenda comes a month after anti-racial protesters started yelling at the board, causing the meeting to be halted for 20 minutes and several people to be evicted by security.

It also comes after a man allegedly threatened JCPS superintendent Marty Pollio over the district’s recent mask tenure, prompting increased security during a council retreat last week.

JCPS will have beefed up security at next week’s meeting, a district spokesperson confirmed.

Background: Is Critical Race Theory the Same as Racial Equity?

Mask on, mask off, mask on?

Halfway between the lifting of a mask warrant on neighborhood properties and the first day of school, JCPS surprised families with an announcement on Sunday afternoon: masks were, once again, mandatory for unvaccinated students and staff.

Some parents became enraged at the sudden change, saying it was a subtle attempt to force children to get vaccinated against their parents’ wishes or saying that wearing a mask should be a choice.

Other parents have expressed quiet relief – about half of the district’s children are not old enough to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with no alternative to in-person classes.

The response foreshadowed what could happen as JCPS presents its strategy to reopen schools to the school board. Masks are expected to be the flagship of the plan, although JCPS has yet to say whether they will require or simply encourage face coverings in the new school year.

Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday that children under 12 are seeing an increase in infections at the same rate as other unvaccinated people.

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“The Delta variant causes more difficult, fatal and tragic results in young people, including children, than we have seen in any of the traditional strains or variants to date,” Beshear said.

Louisville health officials are monitoring several clusters of cases, including at a daycare center and a youth sports tournament.

JCPS ‘recent mask requirement, which was supposed to be in place until the school board vote, had little teeth without a solid way to enforce the policy aside from asking for proof of vaccination.

Recent state health guidelines noted that if a partial requirement was difficult to enforce, a universal mask warrant may be needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics then recommended universal masking for all people over the age of 2 in schools.

Opposition to hide mandates continues as the JCPS vote looms.

Let Them Learn, a Facebook group of parents that advocated for schools to reopen to in-person learning, launched an email campaign to oppose mask warrants shortly after the summer’s requirement was announced. JCPS last week.

Masks and vaccines should be a family’s choice, according to an electronic form shared with group members to send to school board members and state decision makers.

“The use of masks should not be seen as a quid pro quo for returning to full-time, uninterrupted in-person education,” a letter to Beshear reads.

The email ends with “‘WE WILL REMEMBER TOO'” – a play about the teachers’ rallying cry for “Remember November” and vote against former Governor Matt Bevin.

Doubling in the race

Days after Kentucky lawmakers tabled legislation to curb conversations about race in classrooms, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio emailed his boss, the school board.

“It is difficult for me to express how damaging I think this bill is and how disastrous it would be for schools across the state,” Pollio wrote in a June 6 email that The Courier Journal got it through an open case request.

If the legislation is passed next year, Pollio wrote, “any full discussion of the story would be nearly impossible.”

JCPS would “struggle” to offer any kind of black studies course, Pollio told the board, including an introductory dual-credit Pan-African studies course that more than 150 students are expected to take at. during the coming year.

This course could be on Tuesday’s agenda. The school board regularly signs new double credit agreements, but they are rarely threatened by state law and public outcry.

“If KY Republicans are successful, our class will be illegal!” Ricky Jones, who chairs U of L’s pan-African studies department, tweeted after a meeting in June with the initial cohort of teachers. “Damn, I’m happy to join this squad of education criminals!”

Notice: Republicans want to criminalize teaching students about racism. here’s why

This is different from JCPS’s Develop Black Historical Awareness option, which does not come with college credits.

An old copy of the guiding framework for this course, which teachers use to influence how they teach the class, referred to Critical Race Theory. As the term became distorted and politicized, district officials deleted the term from the document earlier this year.

When asked if Critical Race Theory would be mentioned in the new double credit course, district spokesperson Mark Hebert said, “The double credit course for JCPS students will be the same as the one that U of L students have followed and will continue to follow. ”

Jones wrote that in 25 years of teaching he “never taught details of critical race theory in ANY of my classes.”

The JCPS course manual does not appear to refer directly to CRT, one of the teachers said. About a dozen JCPS high schools plan to offer the course, either starting this fall or next year, the teacher said.

Contact Olivia Krauth at [email protected] and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

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