Officials from public and private schools in Bexley say they will continue to rely on distance-learning plans in response to Gov. Mike DeWine's April 20 announcement that Ohio students will not return to their school buildings this academic year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"We have to think about the risk to teachers, students and our communities," DeWine said.

School buildings have been closed since the middle of March because of the pandemic. Bexley City Schools officials have been preparing for the decision to keep schools closed for the remainder of the year, said Tyler Trill, the district's spokesman.

"Though we are disappointed we won't be able to return to school this academic year, we understand why the decision was made in regards to the public's health and safety," he said. "The Bexley school district will continue with our distance-learning plan this school year."

St. Charles Preparatory School has prepared a calendar of remote sessions to keep students engaged while promoting health and safety, Principal James Lower said.

"St. Charles feels that Gov. DeWine's decision is in the best interest of the residents of the state of Ohio and we do support that," he said.

Columbus School for Girls faculty and staff members said they also support the governor's decision and have worked to find innovative ways to engage students online in both solo and group settings, said Jennifer Ciccarelli, CSG's head of school.

"We have also devised many ways for our students, our faculty and our families to connect: small group meetings, virtual lunches, virtual advisory meetings, club meetings -- even band practice.

"Supporting each other and staying connected is so important to us at CSG," she said. "Our students have been amazing: resilient, caring and diligent. They have learned so much about themselves as learners and as community members, even in this short time."

Trill and Lower said Bexley and St. Charles are exploring alternative plans for graduation, while Ciccarelli said CSG has postponed its commencement to Aug. 7.

DeWine said no decision has been made about the start of school in the fall, although 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," the governor's Twitter account said. "That's just a possibility and each school district is different."

Bexley, CSG and St. Charles officials all said they are taking a wait-and-see approach for the next school year.

"The district will await further guidance on the 2020-21 school year before making any decisions," Trill said.

"We are working on these plans and we're hoping our students can return to our campus," Lower said. "We will follow the guidelines of the Department of Education and the Department of Health, as well as the guidelines of the Diocese of Columbus."

"While we are eager to have our students and families back together as a community in person," Ciccarelli said, "we want to do our part to help keep vulnerable Ohioans safe and healthy."

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