If option remains, 23% of New Albany-Plain Local students will start 2020-21 online

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

When school starts up for New Albany-Plain Local School District near the end of August, about 23% of its student population will be learning virtually for the first semester – if they still have a choice, that is.

District spokesman Patrick Gallaway said the school board likely will discuss a recommendation by Franklin County Public Health to start all students with online learning. The board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3.

Prior to those recommendations, the district had given parents the option to opt in to the online-only format, called the New Albany Virtual Learning Plan, by submitting an online request form.

Pending data verification of those request-form results – 1,195 students are registered for the virtual learning plan, said Superintendent Michael Sawyers. The district has approximately 5,163 students.

Of the 1,195 students who opted for virtual learning, 734 of them are in prekindergarten through sixth grade, Sawyers said. There were 461 students in grades 7-12 who opted for the virtual learning plan.

The district will use an online curriculum called Schools PLP, Sawyers said, because it closely matches the district’s curriculum.

The current estimate to purchase a district license is $375,000. Because the district is purchasing the license in a consortium through the Northeastern Ohio Educational Service Center, the cost is subject to change based upon negotiations, he said.

The more schools that participate in the purchase, the cheaper the license will be, he said.

Those students in the online learning academy will be responsible for going through the Schools PLP curriculum on their own, but they will receive support from New Albany teachers, Sawyers said.

Colleen Barber, a district parent, said she chose virtual learning for her three daughters because, although it would require a learning curve, it would eliminate concerns about switching from different learning scenarios based on Franklin County’s pandemic alert level.

“We wanted to start with this because it would be consistent,” Barber said.

Barber and her husband, Zach, have three girls in the district: Campbell, 12, is a sixth-grader at New Albany Intermediate School; Paisley, 10, is a fifth-grader at New Albany Intermediate School and Lindy, 5, is a kindergarten student at the New Albany Early Learning Center. Their son, Nash, is 4.

Consistency also was one of the reasons online learning made the most sense for district parent Gwendolyn Zaczepinski.

Whereas Zaczepinski said she supports the school district, she did not have enough information about how quarantines would be handled or whether a red alert for Franklin County automatically would mean the district would launch hybrid learning – in which students rotate in two groups between learning at home and learning at school.

Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health instituted a color-coded Public Health Alert System that indicates the threat level of additional spreading of the coronavirus. It is set by the ODH based on the number of increasing cases.

Under the district’s current plan, at yellow and orange levels, it likely would maintain in-person learning. At the red level, the district could need to employ a hybrid learning model in which two groups of students rotate between learning at home and in school. At the purple level, the district could need to move to online learning for all students.

Franklin County has been at a red level.

Zaczepinski said she trusts the district administration to choose an acceptable online program for her children – Emmett and Eve, 14-year-old eighth-graders at New Albany Middle School, and Juliet, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at New Albany Intermediate School.

“If it’s not the best in the world, I’m OK with that for a year,” she said.

As of July 31, professional learning days are scheduled Aug. 18 and 19 for the district’s staff, and Aug. 20 and 21 are scheduled as family orientation days for the two teams of students – gold and maroon – groups, as well as those families who opted for the virtual learning program.

The first day of school for students in the virtual learning program is Aug. 24.

From Aug. 24 to 27, the maroon and gold groups would rotate days learning in the classroom, and then all students would learn at home Aug. 28.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah