Grandview Heights Schools' distance learning expected to end Jan. 11

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

Grandview Heights Schools' transition back to distance learning is expected to be temporary.

"Our plan still is to return back to our hybrid learning model on Monday, Jan. 11," Superintendent Andy Culp said. "The only thing I could see changing that decision would be if the COVID positivity rate among our staff increases over the winter break, and I don't think that's very likely."

Andy Culp

Culp announced Dec. 8 the district would switch to distance learning beginning Dec. 14.

The previously scheduled two-week winter break will begin Dec. 21, with classes resuming Jan. 4.

Although the students and staff who were either diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantining when the decision to switch back to distance learning was made, they should be back to normal by then and able to return to school, Culp said.

"We decided to keep the remote learning in place the first week back to allow us to be able to reset our COVID-19 dashboard and return to school with our full staff on Jan. 11," he said. 

The extra week also will give Grandview time to identify those teachers or students who might develop COVID-19 or need to quarantine after being in contact with someone who has tested positive during the winter break and won't be able to attend school in person when the hybrid model returns, Culp said.

Grandview Heights High School senior Derek Amicon wasn't looking forward to the return to remote learning.

"It's just harder to ask questions of your teachers and interact with people when you're online," he said. "Even if the numbers are small, I'd rather be in a classroom with three other people than online with 20 classmates."

Amicon attends class in the morning at the high school when the district's hybrid model is in place.

Attending school, even with only half his classmates, still allows for some sense of normalcy, he said.

The good news is that the return to remote learning is expected to be short-lived.

"With the two-week holiday break coming up, I don't think it's going to have much of an impact," Amicon said. "Our teachers have done a really good job of getting our lessons to us online."

But the school year is essentially half over, and the senior said he is concerned about whether he will be able to experience all the normal graduation traditions.

The change to remote learning is less bothersome for senior Hannah Yochem.

"Our teachers have really done a lot to make it more comfortable for us this time," she said. "They've set up the schedule for online learning that matches our regular school day."

During the weeks of distance learning, classes will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the high school's traditional school day, Yochem said.

"It's going to make it way better to have that normal school-day rhythm in place," she said.

During the week of Dec. 7, the number of Grandview staff and students who were testing positive for COVID-19 or were quarantining had reached one of the highest levels since the pandemic began, Culp said.

As of Dec. 10, the dashboard on the district's website showed 13 current cases of students or staff testing positive or exhibiting symptoms, 56 students and staff quarantining and 30 having recovered and able to return to school buildings.

In the days leading up to the decision to switch to remote learning Dec. 11, "we were checking every box and hitting every threshold on the district's COVID-19 learning-mode framework," Culp said.

But hitting those marks was not the trigger for the decision to go back to distance learning, he said. They are measures that lead to a more intense discussion and consideration of whether a change in learning mode should be considered.  

"That's not to say they didn't play a part in the decision we made," he said. "But this was an operational decision. ... Our switch to remote learning is not due to feeling our school buildings are not safe."

It was becoming increasingly difficult to find substitutes to fill teacher absences, Culp said.

"Our staff – teachers, custodians, food service, administrators – have worked tirelessly to do all they can to keep our students in our buildings," he said. 

Grandview was one of the first Franklin County districts to switch to a hybrid model and one of the last to return to remote learning, Culp said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman