U.S. Markets closed

Is it over for JCPS' mask mandate?

·4 min read
A first-grader waves to other students while waiting in line to head to class at Indian Trail Elementary on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
A first-grader waves to other students while waiting in line to head to class at Indian Trail Elementary on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

Before we go any further, my colleague Mandy McLaren has a request. Are you an elementary school teacher in Kentucky? Then she wants to hear from you. Please fill out this survey or share the link with a reading interventionist in your life.

To mask or not to mask

Masks! Last week’s drama around JCPS’ CDC-aligned masking policy continued for another week, and what a week it was.

Kids headed back to class Wednesday with what appeared to be very few mask issues. Like with previous first days, it looks like the kids are fine with masking. It is the adults who have an issue.

As I said in my last newsletter, JCPS did not call a special board meeting to relax its mask policy before school started. They also didn’t call one later in the week.

But at least three board members said they will back an unscheduled motion during tonight’s regularly scheduled board meeting to switch to a mask-optional policy.

Demand from parents and teachers against the policy can’t be ignored, board members James Craig and Sarah McIntosh said in explaining their support.

This then triggered backlash, including from one of Craig’s school board opponents, Gay Adelmann.

Craig, she said, “did a complete 180 in less than a month. How long do you think it will be before he caves to anti-CRT and anti-LGBTQ+ pressures? That’s why he must be replaced. Don’t negotiate with terrorists. They won’t stop here.”

You need four votes to even take up a motion in a school board meeting, and it looks like we won’t know until tonight if there is enough energy to pass or even simply discuss a policy change. The meeting starts at 6 p.m., so head over to my Twitter to watch the play-by-play.

Can I interest you in a 78-question survey?

The mask debate may not have even been the most drama-filled news topic last week. That honor may actually belong to a 78-question survey that could get teachers in trouble.

School board candidate Steve Ullum surprised a fair amount of JCPS teachers on the first day of school when he sent thousands of emails saying he was running for school board and asking if they could take a survey so he can get a better insight into the classroom.

Here’s the thing: Ullum, as a candidate, is completely within his lane to send emails like that to district-issued teacher email addresses.

Teachers are free to share their thoughts with candidates, publicly or privately. But it can’t happen while on district time, nor can they use district property to share those thoughts.

And since those emails landed in district-issued emails, which are typically accessed on district-issued devices, filling out the survey could get teachers in trouble.

The survey is easily accessible to anyone who has a link, without any security checks to ensure Ullum is hearing from real teachers active in a classroom. Ullum also purposefully made it anonymous so teachers could speak freely without fear of retaliation.

The survey touches on several pressing topics, but seems particularly focused on the "culture wars." One-sixth of the questions — the biggest single topic — focus on how schools handle students’ gender identities and pronoun changes. That hasn't really been a major topic on the education beat in recent weeks, though.

Don’t miss the bus

Students arrive at Waggener High School on the first day of school on Wednesday morning, August 10, 2022.
Students arrive at Waggener High School on the first day of school on Wednesday morning, August 10, 2022.

Transportation woes are common on the first few days of school in JCPS. This year, though, some delays are baked into the schedule as bus drivers are hired and trained.

Nearly 60 bus routes were scheduled to be delayed last week. Now, 51 routes are expected to be impacted this week. The routes and length of the delays change weekly on Saturday afternoons. So, if parents don’t check the bus delay dashboard over the weekend, their kid may be waiting for an extra 30 minutes at their stop or may have missed the bus by 45 minutes.

ICYMI

  • Facing continuing staffing issues, JCPS is asking its board tonight to raise a temporary stipend for bus drivers from $2 an hour to $5.

  • Matt Kingsley, who was an assistant principal at Iroquois last year, was reprimanded by the state educator ethics board after catching a student with a gun and not properly reporting it. He was previously suspended for five days over the same incident.

Your homework

No homework (other than filling out Mandy's survey, which is linked up top). OK, bye.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Is it over for JCPS' mask mandate?