Groveport Madison, Canal Winchester districts adjust plans as COVID-19 data change

JACK McLAUGHLIN
lcochran@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

The Groveport Madison and Canal Winchester school districts continue to adjust their teaching plans as they monitor available data about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in central Ohio.

The Groveport Madison district chose to begin the 2020 school year using a remote-learning model, but students will start returning to classrooms Oct. 19 after a downgrade of Franklin County to threat level 2 by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.

Groveport Madison families could choose either in-person learning or an online learning model, where all instruction would be done remotely and students stay home. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns, students who chose the in-person plan also began the semester with remote learning.

Roughly one-third of district students opted for online learning this semester, with the other two-thirds choosing in-person learning, according to information from the district.

After Franklin County was downgraded to level 2 on Aug. 27, Groveport Madison officials initially said in-person learning would start Sept. 21, but after a Sept. 10 board meeting, Superintendent Garilee Ogden announced the date would be pushed back to Oct. 19.

"I don't want to rush into something for the sake of it," Ogden said. "I am sympathetic to our families. They've got a lot to juggle, but I don't want to jump into anything that will cause a bigger mess."

Officials said one reason for the delay is to allow teachers and staff more time to prepare for in-person learning, both in terms of lesson plans and gathering the necessary personal protective equipment. Another is a potential spike in cases following Labor Day.

"I would be a little nervous about coming back on the 21st, especially because we don't know what the holiday will bring about," board member Kathy Walsh said. "If Labor Day activities cause another peak, we wouldn't know about it for 10 days."

Although the move to a later start date for in-person learning is a safer option for staff and students, it could cause logistical issues for some families.

Board member LaToya Dowdell-Burger, who has children attending Groveport Madison, describes herself as "half and half."

"Safety-wise, yes," she said of the later start date. "But I wouldn't be surprised if parents like myself have begun to make arrangements. I think whatever date (chosen to return to school), they might need to make a solid -- not projected -- date for next time."

Because of these concerns, Ogden said, the Oct. 19 return would be changed again only if there were a significant spike in the number of Franklin County COVID-19 cases.

Canal Winchester

The Canal Winchester district also gave students the option to resume learning online or in person for the fall semester, which started Sept. 2. Students who chose in-person learning are using a hybrid model, where half the student body attends school on a given day, with the other half using remote learning on those days.

Board President Matt Krueger said the lower COVID-19 threat level in Franklin County won't affect the district's current instruction plans.

"With parents choosing which style of education is right for their student and family, those are set for the first semester, so it did not alter the number of students attending school," Krueger said. "That should not fluctuate unless numbers dramatically increase, forcing us to go all remote."

The district has taken a holistic stance on any pandemic-related decisions, Superintendent James Sotlar said last month.

Moving forward, Sotlar said, the district will take into account several factors, including the number of local and district COVID-19 cases, and will not rely solely on Franklin County's threat level.

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