Olentangy Schools planning for iffy 2020-21

JIM FISCHER
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Olentangy Schools officials expect to announce in early July plans for the start of the coming school year.

As the district formulates a plan for this “entirely new territory,” in the words of chief academic officer Jack Fette, decision-makers are getting guidance and input from teachers, parents, students, members of the district’s standing committees and state health officials.

Considerations “include everything from transportation, to facilities, space considerations, how we instruct, schedule,” district spokeswoman Krista Davis said.

“It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” Fette said.

Davis said each department throughout the district is working through a document prepared by the district’s operations team – “essentially, a list of questions that need to be thought through.

“And as we get more answers, we also get more questions,” she said.

“Our teacher back-to-school committee has met four times to address the instructional aspect, and the operations team is working with principals to address logistical issues outside of teaching and learning,” Fette said.

Separate surveys were sent to parents and students throughout the district, Davis said.

Fette said the district has learned a few things during the spring closure that should help, but he emphasized those decisions were made “with 72 hours notice.”

“For the fall, we can ensure more consistency,” he said. “Any plan must allow us to transition in and out of these various models. We’re going to need to be fluid throughout the year.”

Ultimately, Davis said, any decisions also must be guided by direction from the governor’s office and the state departments of health and education.

Fette said examples of curricular concerns include classes that share materials and equipment.

“We have math classrooms with a set of graphic calculators – 25 calculators for 150 kids in a school day,” he said. “What are the protocols for cleaning those? (Advanced Placement) classes with science labs assume a certain amount of in-person instruction, and there is equipment, which needs to be cleaned, so they have a certain set of challenges.

“And then you have 200-member marching bands – how do you practice?”

Davis said officials also are aware of different considerations for teaching at the different grade levels.

Fette said not all questions surround how, if at all, in-person instruction in district facilities could be accomplished, but also how to continue to meet the needs of all of the district’s students.

“Let’s say we adopt a hybrid model. There are still medically fragile kids who will have to be virtual,” Fette said.

He said he’s aware that creating a schedule that looks different in any way from the traditional all-day, everyday model will be a burden to some families.

“We know that’s less than ideal for parents,” Fette said, “but parents have always been great partners with us, and we’re confident they will continue to be even when circumstances are not the best.”

Fette credited the district’s teachers with being problem-solvers and not being overwhelmed by the decisions that will need to be made.

“Our job has not changed,” Fette said. “We are going to teach kids and help them grow.”

Davis said once a proposal is announced in early July, the district again will reach out to families for input and, if necessary, adapt the plan.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews