Mayor Fischer and education leaders discuss the challenges of COVID-19 crisis

April 30, 2020

Mayor Greg Fischer today spoke with the leaders of Louisville’s two major public institutions of higher learning to get a status report on how they are managing the COVID-19 crisis.

Both the University of Louisville and Jefferson Community & Technical College were forced to abruptly cancel in-person classes and send most of their students home in March to help prevent the spread of the virus.

But as the virus appears to be plateauing in Louisville and the local economy is taking steps to reopen, UofL President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi told the Mayor that the university is preparing to resume on-campus instruction for the fall semester.

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“We fully intend to have students here on campus for the fall,” Dr. Bendapudi said. “Now, everyone knows this is caveated by what may come along.”

JCTC President and CEO Dr. Ty Handy said similar preparations are being made there, as well.

“We’re fully intending to offer a full complement of coursework,” Dr. Handy said.

Although 40 percent of JCTC’s students were already taking some classes online before the pandemic struck, Dr. Handy said much of the technical training the school performs requires hands-on, in-person instruction.

“We’re preparing for that,” he said.

Dr. Bendapudi stressed that UofL has continued educating its students via remote learning throughout the unprecedented shutdown.

“We have never closed down,” she said. “We are open for business.”

One challenge has been convincing students to stay focused on their future amid the extreme uncertainty that this global pandemic has created, Dr. Handy said.

“Students can hunker down and wait ’til this is all over, and end up not being prepared,” he said. “The natural reaction is to sit back and wait.”

But with every major crisis, such as 9/11 in 2001 and the 2007-09 Great Recession, the society and economy that develops on the other side often creates new opportunities and requires different skills than before, Dr. Handy said.

Data from the post-Great Recession recovery, for example, showed that even more jobs required a post-high school education than before, he noted. “Now is the time to take some action,” Dr. Handy said.

Mayor Fischer also spoke with Marland Cole, executive director of Evolve502, about the non-profit group’s efforts to stay connected with local students it has been helping to prepare for college and a career.

Evolve502 is a community-focused organization that helps Jefferson County Public School students pursue the dream of a college education by working to expand educational opportunities and reduce systemic barriers.

Cole said Evolve502 is connecting with students via online virtual sessions with the group’s career coaches. “We are trying to keep them engaged and focused on pursuing college,” Cole said.

Evolve502 is also forming a “rapid response team” to address the challenges presented by the pandemic, such as the technology gap that prevents many low-income students from taking full advantage of distance learning opportunities.

“Learning is being impacted,” said Cole, noting that “a new learning paradigm” is being created amidst the crisis. “Equity gaps that existed before (COVID-19) are even more apparent.”

Mayor Fischer agreed, noting studies indicating that post-high school education is “the number one disrupter of poverty.”

“The pandemic didn’t cause the inequities in our system, but it certainly put the spotlight on them,” the Mayor said.

To watch a replay of today’s tele town hall, go to facebook.com/MayorGregFischer.

Daily COVID-19 data

As of Thursday, there have been 49 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville, bringing the total to 1,275 with 662 recoveries. There have been two additional deaths since Wednesday, bringing the Louisville total to 91.

Gender/Age data for today’s deaths:

  • Female/71
  • Female/63

Currently, 45 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:

  • 12 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
  • 12 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
  • 21 are “screened off” with symptoms and tested, or due to be tested, but have not received test results.

Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began:

  • 22 positive tests.
  • 10 have fully recovered and returned to duty. (Yesterday’s press release incorrectly said 11.)

Metro Corrections inmate data for April 30:

  • 122 inmates have been tested.
  • 0 positive tests.
  • 14 tests are pending.