Bexley City Schools leaders are considering three options for the 2020-21 school year to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said during the school board's July 7 meeting.

The three options include students returning to in-person class full time when the new school year begins Aug. 20, continuing full-time remote learning that began in mid-March, when Gov. Mike DeWine first announced orders for school buildings to close, or a hybrid of the first two options, she said.

"If we're not required to be remote, we won't be remote," Miller said.

The options resulted from a survey the district had circulated to students, parents and staff members, requesting feedback about remote learning during the statewide shutdown and a second survey circulated to parents and staff members about their preferences for students to return to in-person classes in August.

Of the nearly 2,000 responses in the second survey, 826 respondents said they most prefer a full return to school; 73 respondents said they most prefer full remote learning; 185 respondents said they most prefer an "a.m./p.m." hybrid of students attending class in the morning or afternoon and remote learning the rest of the day; and 146 respondents said they most prefer a hybrid of students attending in-person classes two days a week.

"There's clearly a desire to have our students back in school," Miller said.

The district's 25-member reopening task force comprising administrators and community representatives, met June 29 to review the survey results, Miller said.

"Upon reviewing those and looking at various options, the task force overall decided to take the a.m./p.m. model off the table," she said. "The one that we're looking at would be where we're looking at having half the students for two days a week and the other half would be on remote, and then they would switch."

Bexley school board president Marlee Snowdon said it makes sense that the task force also is considering different options at different times, depending on whether coronavirus infection rates in Franklin County increase or decrease. This option would be based on the Ohio Department of Public Health's "purple, red, yellow and orange" advisory system, with purple signaling a severe outbreak.

"I really like the idea of having a trigger point," Snowdon said. "It's almost like a snow day -- we've got our 10 inches of snow, and we're staying home."

The task force will continue to meet throughout July to discuss the options, and any final option will include adhering to 6-foot distancing guidelines issued by public-health officials, Miller said.

"We're still looking at masks and getting guidance on that," she said. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks. All staff will definitely be wearing face coverings when we return to school."

The task force will continue to take into account the constantly changing environment caused by fluctuating coronavirus infection rates, Miller said.

"We could land where we are on July 30 and have to do something different by Aug. 20," she said.

"At this point, we're not planning on changing our start date. Although districts are starting to talk about a few more days with teachers and that's something I'd like to talk with our BEA (Bexley Education Association teachers' union) about, as well as our task force. Some districts are talking about a post-Labor Day start. We haven't talked about that."

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