As it stands, 24% of Dublin students to start 2020-21 online

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

About 24% of Dublin City Schools students plan to learn remotely via the online academy for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.

As of July 31, about 4,000 students had opted into the academy, said Tracey Deagle, Dublin City Schools deputy superintendent.

That number is expected to increase because the district has extended the deadline for families to submit applications for the academy to Aug. 5, she said.

Of the 4,000 students, about 800 are in high school, about 800 are in middle school and about 2,400 are in elementary school, said Deagle, who added the district primarily will use its own teachers for online learning.

Students in grades K-8 will have teachers dedicated solely to academy classes. At the high school level, teachers could have a mix of in-person and online classes.

The district will use an online learning program called APEX, at a cost of $80,000, for specific courses with fewer high school students, Deagle said.

Students in the online academy will start school the same day as the rest of students, Deagle said.

As of July 31, the district planned to start school Aug. 19 in a hybrid model, with two groups of students rotating for remote and in-classroom instruction.

The district is scheduled to have a school board meeting Aug. 4 to determine whether to follow Franklin County Public Health’s recommendation that districts start the school year with fully remote learning, Deagle said. The status of athletics programs also is on the agenda.

Tiffany deSilva said she chose the online academy for two of her children and the decision for her oldest child depends on if the district starts school remotely.

“My whole decision hinges on that,” she said.

deSilva has three children: Maya, 15, is a sophomore at Dublin Scioto High School. Alexa, 13, is an eighth-grader at Davis Middle School. Reyna, 11, is a sixth-grader at Davis.

If the Dublin Board of Education doesn’t seem to be in line with Franklin County Public Health recommendations, deSilva said, she is more likely to choose remote learning for Maya.

deSilva said her decision for online learning for Alexa and Reyna was in part based on the student population at Davis making social distancing difficult.

Whereas social distancing would be easier for Maya at Scioto, which is less crowded, deSilva said, she’s still concerned about the level of community spread.

Emilie Eskridge said several factors went into her decision to choose the online academy for her children -- Chloe, 12, and Doug, 10. Chloe is a seventh-grader at Davis, and Doug is a fifth-grader at Olde Sawmill Elementary School.

Eskridge said she wants consistency for her children, and she realizes both really want to return to school.

“But what I really think they want is normalcy,” she said.

Eskridge said she almost can provide that better at home. School will not be normal, with limited activities, social distancing and masks, she said. And her children still could socialize safely outside with friends even if they are enrolled in the online academy, she said.

Eskridge said she understands she is at an advantage in some respects. Both she and her husband, Michael, work from home, and her children are at an age in which they are semi-independent.

Both she and her husband are able to help educate their children, and because of that, they did not have to reach out for teacher support while the district was using an online model in the spring.

Eskridge said keeping her children at home may create space for students who need classroom instruction.

She said she knows that the district is trying its best to open school safely but added, “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Lynette Mercado said she prefers consistency for her daughters -- Izabella Santiago, 13, and Sophia Santiago, 10 -- but other factors also contributed to her decision to enroll both girls in the online academy.

Izabella, 13, is an eighth-grader at Grizzell Middle School. Mercado said anxiety about how school would be conducted during the pandemic, coupled with recent civil unrest, led Izabella to request enrollment in the online academy.

Izabella, Mercado said, told her she could not deal with stress from that, as well as with how school would function because of the pandemic.

Mercado’s youngest child, Sophia, is a fifth-grader at the new Abraham Depp Elementary School and already was nervous about starting at a new school, Mercado said.

“As a single mother, I need to plan,” Mercado said.

Mercado allowed her son, 16-year-old Matthew Santiago, to choose for himself because this will be his senior year at Jerome High School. He chose to return to school, she said.

Mercado’s eldest child, Hannah Santiago, 19, is a Jerome graduate.

Whereas consistency was a driving factor for some parents, Becki Harr said one of the reasons she allowed her son, Walker, to remain at Grizzell Middle School was the opportunity for a more structured learning environment.

Harr said Walker, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, also would thrive more with in-person contact with teachers and peers as well as an opportunity for social engagement.

Walker said her family is fortunate because they don’t have anyone in their home who is immunocompromised or in a high-risk category for COVID-19.

“We felt as though the benefits of him being in the building, even if only 50% of the time, outweighed the risks,” she said.

And if students were to remain in the hybrid model for an extended period, the setup would provide less of a risk to teachers and students than if everyone was in the building at the same time, Walker said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

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