LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On Tuesday, April 7, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) launches its first Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) plan for more than 100,000 students in its district. NTI provides a virtual classroom so students can stay in school during the coronavirus.
“This is such a unique time,” JCPS’s Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman said. Coleman said JCPS and families can’t plan for NTI as if it’s the typical school day.
JCPS’ Family & Engagement Specialist Chrystal Hawkins recommends having at least one contact at the student’s school to honestly communicate a family’s needs like schedule, support, lack of resources, or if the expectations are unrealistic.
“The teachers are requiring different things of the family, that it is responsive of what families need, but they can’t be responsive if they don’t know,” Hawkins told Spectrum News 1.
JCPS also has a family engagement Facebook page for parents to connect.
“We’re there to kind of offer some information if needed, but it’s really an opportunity for them to connect and support each other [by] sharing pictures of what you’re doing at home [or] talking to each other,” Hawkins explained.
Hawkins said space, where the student does NTI, can be whatever works for the child and supports their learning, but recommends it’s away from the TV, video games, and other distractions.
“Because a lot of parents are staying home. I know that our kiddos sometimes want to be with their mom, and they want to be with her dad, and so having a space where this is your space to work on for school and this is my space. So I think it will look different based on each family,” Hawkins said.
JCPS’s NTI doesn’t have to be done during normal school hours, but Coleman recommends kids also have a say in their schedule.
“What do you think is reasonable? And what would be a good break when we need a break? I would really get them involved in that,” Coleman told Spectrum News 1.
Hawkins’ biggest tip is don’t isolate. She recommends communication amongst the family, with other parents, the school, and she recommends to have kids FaceTime, phone, or message their classmates.
“They are just excited to see some sort of a connection to their school or the kids that they used to see. So I think that will keep the momentum going,” Hawkins said.
Coleman said JCPS understands these are different times, and the only goal for NTI is to add value, not stress.
“We are extremely empathetic. We are all in this situation together,” Coleman said. “And we’ll make some mistakes. We need some grace. We haven’t done this before, either.”
JCPS is still distributing district Chromebooks to families who qualified. Any leftover Chromebooks will be given to families based on a lottery system.
If homes don’t have a device or internet to access NTI online, hard copies of academic exercises that students can do at home are available at more than 60 Emergency Food sites across Louisville.
Starting Monday, April 13, hard copy packets of grade-level specific course work will be available at the food sites, which are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:00 am -1:00 pm.
JCPS’ NTI support website offers resources, tools, and training to help parents and students get familiar with NTI.