Upper Arlington will start school year online only

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Upper Arlington Schools will open the 2020-21 school year with all students taking courses online through at least Sept. 18.

The Upper Arlington Board of Education unanimously approved a "Responsible Restart Plan" during a special meeting July 31.

In doing so, the board scrapped an earlier hybrid plan to reopen school buildings for the 2020-21 year, whereby 50% of students in each building would have attended classes Mondays, Tuesdays and some Wednesdays, and the other half would have attended Thursdays, Fridays and some Wednesdays.

Superintendent Paul Imhoff said the decision to pull the hybrid model off the table at this time and move to 100% online classes was based on recommendations from Franklin County Public Health officials.

On July 28, Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola told board members new daily COVID-19 cases in the county had jumped from an average of 100 to 125 in early June, to "well over" 300 in recent weeks.

"We're in a position now that we're recommending that we begin the enhanced distance-learning model through at least the 18th of September," Imhoff said. "We think it's critical to be as safe as possible, obviously, with our students and staff, so I certainly support this and believe it's the right thing to do.

"While there is no possibility of a plan, especially during this global crisis, that would make everyone happy -- we understand that -- I do believe this is the right plan for our schools, and I believe it gives us flexibility to continue to change and adapt as the situation changes."

Imhoff said county health officials have said a sustained decrease in the overall coronavirus risk level must be realized for at least four weeks before students should return to an in-person learning environment.

If that occurs, the district could shift to the hybrid model. By having 50% of students in school buildings each day, Imhoff said, the district would be able to provide the recommended 6 feet of social distancing for students and staff.

The district's first day of school is Aug. 19.

"This is setting us up for the best possible scenario of getting our kids back in schools as safely and quickly as possible," school board member Jenny McKenna said. "Our goal is to provide an in-school option as soon as is safely possible.

Imhoff said parents would receive information soon about the district's plan for athletics to start the school year, but he noted some sports could expect a "rolling back" of activities.

"Not all sports are created equal," he said. "So we're going to look if there's a possibility of doing different things -- for instance, with tennis and golf because there are different safety procedures available there."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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