LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — In an email to parents, acting superintendent Marlene Helm said the district's COVID-19 instruction plan for the week of January 8th and January 11th will be decided at Tuesday's board meeting.
The email continued to say that FCPS will determine whether kids will be in the classroom, learning virtually, or somewhere in between, by looking at their "in-person learning matrix".
The matrix uses Fayette County's seven-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 cases as a guide.
It says, for example, if there are 3.3 cases or fewer in that rolling average, everyone is cleared to go back to school. (Note: the numbers inside the colored boxes on the matrix are different because they represent the number of cases per 100,000 people. We are using the numbers to the left of those boxes).
For context, in the graph above you can see that the last time Fayette County was at 3.3 cases or fewer was in April 2019.
The next stage says that if the average is between 3.3 and 33 cases, schools will be open for in-person learning, but may be subject to short-term closures.
Then, if the average is from 34 to 83 cases, schools will be open for graduated in-person learning. There was no further definition of "graduated", but an FCPS board person clarified for LEX18 and said "graduated" indicates a "phased-in return".
"That means bringing back different grade levels," the board member wrote. "For example, only K-1st, 6th, and 9th or something similar."
Next, if there are 84 to 132 cases, the district will consider moving to remote learning, with targeted services.
Finally, if there are 133 cases or more, all schools will be closed.
According to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, the current seven-day rolling average is 205 cases.
Parents in the "Let Them Learn" Facebook group have consistently expressed that they want all kids to be allowed back in the classroom now.
One parent in the group, Greg Prince, said if done thoughtfully and carefully, bringing kids back in-person would be safe.
"I think if you're the type of person who is still nervous and doesn't want to send your kid to school, I think everyone in our group thinks that's understandable and we think that option should exist, but for those of us that want to send our kids back to school and think it's very important to have in-person learning I think that we should have that option too," Prince said.
He also said that he understands his group's desire to start in-person learning now is not likely. Therefore, he said he hopes FCPS at least looks at the rolling average data critically.
For example, he believes that any clusters from nursing homes, jails, or UK should be eliminated from the data.
"I'd like them to look at the data to make sure they parse out any data that doesn't affect community spread," Prince said. "For instance, like anything from prisons or institutions, which is what they're supposed to do but it's going to take some digging."
In Helm's letter, it said that in addition to the "matrix" FCPS will "evaluate current levels of COVID-19 in our community" in deciding what to do.
That may be related to the "transition factors" listed on the matrix guide, but it is not clear.
LEX18 reached out to Helm and board chair Stephanie Spires for clarification but has not heard back.