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Debate continues over Non-Traditional Instruction days, virtual learning

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Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 07, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As lawmakers began the special session Tuesday, parents stood by to find out if their district would be allowed more flexibility for virtual learning.

Sheila Lucero was one of the parents wondering what her son's school would do and hoping lawmakers would give districts more leeway.

"I don't want virtual for him. It doesn't work well, but with the numbers as high as they are, I'm kind of confused about why we're not at that," said Lucero.

There are now 1,224 students quarantined in Fayette County Public School.

The district hasn't said anything about a possible virtual learning transition or what they want the legislature to do.

Lucero watched the numbers rise and now her son is quarantined. She wants a hybrid option for students who may be in the same situation.

"Maybe they could go two or three times a week, one group, and then another group, where they switch up so there's not so many people in the building. At least he would get some things he needed," said Lucero.

With so many kids in quarantine, many parents have asked the same questions.

This year lawmakers passed a bill limiting districts to 10 days of non-traditional instruction (NTI). Any days used for NTI beyond the 10 would have to be made up by the end of the school year or schools risk losing their funding. That's why schools say they don't have the flexibility to offer those options.

That's exactly what the legislature is trying to sort out in this week's special session because children now make up 25% of COVID cases in Kentucky.

According to the Kentucky School Boards Association, 33 of the state's 171 districts have shut down in-person education temporarily.

But there are parents like 'let them learn' founder Greg Prince who are frustrated that virtual learning may be back on the table.

"There's data that shows the schools are not a factor," said Prince citing CDC data about transmission.

Prince has done his research and would like to see Fayette County Schools apply a test and stay method where if student tests negative, they can stay in school and not quarantine.

"Fingers are crossed. We do have some people in the legislature that have common sense and hopefully can read data and understand it. Unlike some of the people who made the decisions in the past, and just keep the kids in school, keep them learning," said Prince.

Amanda Patrick also has children in FCPS and agrees with Prince.

"I don't believe that if you are in class, if your child is in class, and there is an exposure if they have a negative test, I don't see why they need to be at home quarantining," said Patrick.

She says virtual learning didn't work for her kids and would hate to see it return.

"Last year was so hard. I saw my kids digress so bad in learning and personality and their social relationships. Then this year, they have flourished, both academically and socially, and I need them to keep going that way," said Patrick.

From conversations Tuesday, lawmakers appear to be willing to give schools more tools. There will be more information on which in the coming days. However, it will still be up to individual districts to decide how they'll use them.

If a family decides that for medical reasons in-person learning is not the best method of learning for their student, families have the option to apply for the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) full-time.

The last time we checked in August, 593 students are currently in the VLA.