Starting Sept. 21, Bexley City Schools leaders plan to begin transitioning to a hybrid of distance learning and in-person classes.

The change is planned because the number of new COVID-19 coronavirus cases throughout Franklin County has declined over the past month, district officials said at the school board's Sept. 1 meeting.

The district also has begun allowing contact-sports competitions.

The board voted 5-0 to approve an appendix to the back-to-school plan it approved Aug. 4. The amended plan continues the full distance learning that began on the first day of school, Aug. 24, through Sept. 18.

The key difference in the amended plan is it removes dates for transitioning from one learning model to the next and grants more flexibility for the district to assess local and statewide health and safety conditions based on several factors, Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said.

"Our commitment has been that we will listen to (Franklin County) Public Health, we will talk to our local doctors and epidemiologists, we will work with our teachers and our administrators that have to actually make the shifts and we'll do things thoughtfully," she said.

Administrators and teachers are planning for hybrid learning that will include in-person instruction three days a week and distance learning two days a week, Miller said.

"What the planning is for is the specifics of delivering instruction in the curriculum where we are now. Teachers now have to determine which of the instruction can be synchronous and which can be asynchronous," she said. "Now they really have to think through their lessons about what can students be doing without their support and what really requires their support."

The board also voted 5-0 to approve a resolution to immediately allow contact sports to hold competitions, based on new guidelines issued Aug. 28 by Ohio Department of Health interim director Lance Himes allowing all youth sports to practice and engage in competitions.

"We can mitigate risks with masks and proper distancing," said Harley Williams, the district's director of operations.

Miller said the district would post details of the transition from distance to hybrid learning on its website, bexleyschools.org, and issue communications to parents through its weekly email newsletter.

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