Whitehall City Schools' path tied to county's COVID status
No field trips.
No visitors or volunteers in the school buildings.
Temperature checks at bus stops.
Mandatory facial coverings for all staff and students at most times.
That's how different schools likely will look if about 3,400 Whitehall students return to classes in person Aug. 31, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Hardy, director of accountability and instruction for Whitehall City Schools, said the district plans to use a three-tier system for 2020-21 that is tethered to a public-health advisory scale introduced July 2 by Gov. Mike DeWine.
The "Reset and Restart" plan was crafted "with a lot of guidance from the Ohio Department of Education and state and local health departments" as well as the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, with consideration of neighboring districts and results from a parent and staff survey, Hardy said.
The board will be asked to formally adopt a written restart plan at a board meeting July 30, said district Superintendent Brian Hamler.
Hardy said creating and implementing the restart plan is a challenge.
"But we are not looking at the obstacles; we are looking at the opportunities (to) create the best education possible for our students," Hardy said.
Hardy said he hopes the district can begin the school year in what would most closely resemble a typical year: with in-school classroom instruction.
If Franklin County is at Level 1 or 2 -- yellow or orange, respectively -- on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, then Whitehall schools would use a "traditional model," Hardy said.
Under that model, Whitehall students would attend in-person classes at Whitehall-Yearling High School, Rosemore Middle School and the district's three elementary schools and preschool.
But classrooms would not look or operate the same as last year, Hardy said.
Where possible, it would be the teachers, not the students, who change classrooms between classes, Hardy said.
The district would require staff and students in all grades to wear facial coverings, he said.
"Mask breaks will be permitted when social distancing is possible," he said.
Exceptions would be made for students or staff, on a case-by-case basis, for "medical or developmental" reasons, Hardy said.
Arrival and dismissal times at buildings, as well as the changing of classes during the day, would be modified or staggered as necessary to prevent the clustering of individuals, Hardy said.
The district is continuing to purchase personal protective equipment and modifying buildings by rearranging furniture and installing partitions.
The start of the school year is two weeks later than originally scheduled.
Classes were to start Aug. 17, but the first day of instruction for students in grades 1-12 now is Aug. 31.
The first day of kindergarten is Sept. 8.
The delay was necessary to allow the district time to communicate the restart plan to parents and guardians, Hardy said, as well as to provide staff time for preparation and planning.
If Franklin County is at a Level 3, or red, Whitehall schools would use a hybrid model, Hardy said.
Students, based on households, would be placed on one of two tracks, Hardy said.
Students on one track would attend classes Tuesdays and Thursdays; students on the other track would attend classes Wednesdays and Fridays.
Students on each track would attend classes every other Monday, creating an alternating two-day-a week and three-day-a-week in-person instruction schedule for each student, Hardy said.
Each student in Whitehall, before the start of the school year, would be assigned a Chromebook laptop computer in the event online learning is required, Hardy said.
As of July 13, Franklin County was at Level 3, which would result in the district using its hybrid model.
If Franklin County is at Level 4, or purple, the district would use an online-only model, the same as it was required to use from March 16 until the end of the school year after DeWine announced an order that all public school districts in Ohio would be closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Whitehall school board president Mike Adkins called the district's approach "a safe and well-thought-out plan."