Ohio students will not return to school buildings until at the least the start of the next academic school year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and Hilliard City Schools leaders are planning for the next step.

If families might not be comfortable sending students back to buildings – if they even are open at the start of the next school year – the district will develop a plan this summer to allow for students to learn exclusively online if a family opts to do so, Superintendent John Marschhausen said.

“We are looking at a number of different options, everything from a traditional setting with social distancing to blended learning,” Marschhausen said.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced April 20 that the buildings, closed in the middle of March and previously expected to remain that way through at least May 1 because of the pandemic, would remain shuttered.

However, he said, no decision had been made about students returning to school buildings in August, but he did allow for a potential “blended system” of learning.

“There is the possibility that we will have a blended system this fall – some distance learning as well as some in-person learning,” DeWine’s Twitter account said April 20. “That’s just a possibility and each school district is different.”

About 16,800 students attend Hilliard schools, according to Stacie Raterman, director of communications for the district.

The district is planning for scenarios that do not include a return to practices and policies before the pandemic, Marschhausen said.

The district also is taking into account parents who would choose not to return their children to the classroom even after schools reopen, he said.

“Our hope and plan is that we will be able to offer to any parent or student who feels it necessary a 100% online education through Hilliard City Schools,” Marschhausen said. “We know some families will be very nervous about sending their kids back into an environment where this virus is still a threat, and if that is the case in August, we will be able to provide to you the opportunity to get a Hilliard education from a Hilliard teacher in the safety of your own home.

“We take great pride in preparing for all different scenarios.”