The Grandview Heights school board Saturday, Aug. 1, voted 5-0 to approve Superintendent Andy Culp's recommendation that the district begin the school year with full-time distance learning.

The board July 22 approved a plan for the 2020-21 school year that includes three school-based pathways the district could pivot to and from as needed and a virtual-learning option that families can choose.

The three pathways are a return to traditional face-to-face instruction in school buildings; remote learning; and a hybrid model in which students would spend half of each day attending class in their schools and the other half engaged in learning activities at home.

When the board approved the plan July 22, Culp said if school was to begin that day, it would be in the hybrid model.

The hybrid model has a morning/afternoon structure, with students whose names begin with the letters A-L attending school in the morning and M-Z students during the afternoon.

That is the model the district would use when conditions allow it to pivot to hybrid.

Franklin County Public Health July 29 issued guidelines recommending districts open the school year with 100% remote learning, Culp said.

Franklin County Public Health, the Ohio Department of Health and Columbus Department of Health provided updated criteria and recommendations regarding the start of the school year during a July 28 meeting with central Ohio school superintendents, he said.

"They strongly recommended to not rely on the governor's color-coded system as the metric for (determining) the schooling pathway," Culp said. "It's a metric, but it's not the metric."

The health officials added two additional and more-weighted criteria -- the infection rate and the number of COVID-19 cases -- that should be used, he said.

The most recent infection rate for Franklin County he'd seen as of July 30 was between 8% and 13%, Culp said. The desired baseline is a rate of 5%, he said.

Franklin County has been averaging about 240 cases per day, although the number was "down a bit" July 30, he said. The desired baseline is 40 cases per day.

The health officials also strongly recommended that the school year begin with distance learning until case and infection rates are reduced, Culp said.

With the board's approval of starting the year with distance learning, principals will send families details about the virtual-learning schedules for their buildings Monday, Aug. 3, he said.

The revised remote plan "is significantly more structured" than the model quickly put in place in the spring, Culp said. "There will be daily synchronous learning opportunities with teachers. It will look a little different by building."

Stevenson essentially will follow the morning/afternoon hybrid model for remote learning, he said. The core content areas will be synchronous for the morning students and the related arts content will be synchronous for them in the afternoon. The reverse schedule will apply to the afternoon students.

At the high school, a modified eight-period day will be held with shorter class periods, Culp said.

Office hours for students will be available at the beginning of each school day and for parents and students needing intervention or extra help at the end of each day, bookending the modified online class schedule, he said.

Principals also will work with their grade-level teachers to plan orientations for students, Culp said.

Some people have asked him about the possibility of further delaying the start of the school year, Culp said.

Grandview already has pushed back the start date from Thursday, Aug. 13, to Monday, Aug. 17, to give teachers two additional days of professional development, he said.

Culp said he does not favor additional delays, in part because he doesn't see how that would improve the mitigation and protection of students and staff from COVID-19.

"And I think that every day of learning is critical now more than ever," he said.

In their meeting with superintendents, the health departments recommended that while distance learning is in place, all sports and extracurricular activities should be halted, he said.

Grandview on Aug. 1 returned to a Phase 1 structure for sports, limiting student athletes to participating in skill-training activities with nine or fewer participants, Culp said.

Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to discuss school athletics at his news conference Tuesday, Aug. 4, he said.

Grandview will wait to see what guidelines and directives are announced by the governor before making a determination about sports, Culp said.

The district will look at "creative ways" to allow students to continue to participate online in a variety of extracurricular activities, including band, chess club, French club and yearbook, he said.

One difference between the fall and last spring's remote-learning system is that buildings are not expected to be closed unless COVID-19 conditions worsen, Culp said.

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