Students upset over FCPS transparency

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Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 14:54:49-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Students in Fayette County Public Schools are speaking out, calling for more transparency from the district amid increasing absences.

Journalism students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School heard an announcement Friday morning that there were 31 teachers absent at their school alone and immediately began asking questions.

"At what point do we decide that we need to go to NTI because like today, we have a good chunk of people absent and we just want to know what exactly is the threshold," said Madeline Kilumba, a student journalist for PLD Lamplighter.

In addition to the absent teachers, there were 411 students absent and 71 students in quarantine on Friday.

There were 26 teachers absent at Lafayette High School and 25 absent at Henry Clay High School, according to data gathered by student journalists.

The number of students present includes some students present virtually.

"We're the students that are having to go through this, and we're the students that are having to experience this and honestly feeling almost as if our safety is in jeopardy," said Elizabeth Hunter, a student journalist for PLD Lamplighter.

Superintendent Demetrus Liggins addressed those concerns in a press conference Friday morning.

He says the district is considering a widespread outbreak of illness within the school, whether there is an unmanageable percentage of absent teachers, and the number of absent essential staff to determine if they move to virtual learning.

"Every single morning and every single afternoon we're looking at individual instances to where we can determine whether or not it is appropriate, whether or not it is needed, and so far, we've just not had that experience. We've really been stretched thin, but it has not been to the point where we've had to close down schools," said Liggins.

That answer created even more questions for students.

"Why can we have 70% of our students here, and you know, there's nothing to be done and that obviously doesn't pass the threshold. It seems almost as if there's- I don't want to speculate, but they have a general idea of when this red line is or whatever magic number it is that they're just withholding because we just maybe haven't hit that yet," said Hunter.

For them, transparency is the issue because the district's COVID dashboard does not represent what they're seeing inside their school with their own eyes.

"They're being very vague about what they're saying, and we just want answers," said Kilumba.

Students say even with substitutes or administration filling in as substitutes. They don't get the same quality of instruction.

"There's an uprising in cases, teachers are missing, students are missing. I feel like we're almost letting this, we're watching this phenomenon, rather than trying to put up this fire that is all these absences," said Hunter.

We reached to the district to get further clarification but have not heard back yet. We were told earlier this week that there is no magic number or threshold but several "circumstances."

They did tell us on Tuesday the dashboard doesn't account for teachers who might be out due to other illnesses like the flu. It's only for COVID cases.