Hilliard school board sets new learning-mode protocols

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
This slide illustrates how Hilliard City Schools leaders will use local indicators to determine the educational mode in the district.

Hilliard City Schools leaders say they will use as much local data as possible in determining which mode of instructional learning for students – in person, hybrid or remote – would be used during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Board members on Sept. 28 unanimously approved a revision to the district’s coronavirus protocols as proposed by Superintendent John Marschhausen.

“This does what we want to do ... to minimize movement (between modes) and keep kids safe,” board member Lisa Whiting said.

Under the revised protocols that were approved Sept. 28 and immediately were effective, the district would be required to hit or avoid three specific indicators in conjunction with other data points for two consecutive weeks before the district would transition from its hybrid mode to an all-in in-person mode or remote learning, said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for the district.

Through the district’s collaboration with the Ohio State University in a program called COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance, or CATS, for short, Marschhausen said leaders are able to collect district-specific data that can be used to make the best decisions within the school district rather than using countywide data.

Over the summer, the state instituted the Ohio Public Health Advisory System in an attempt to measure the amount of coronavirus risk in each county through a set of state indicators.

The baseline for determining the district’s mode of education remains Franklin County’s public-health status that Gov. Mike DeWine typically announces every Thursday but public-health data from Hilliard, including CATS triggers, also will be  applied, Raterman said.

Data collected from CATS was used to create the three specific indicators for the district, Marschhausen said.

The triggers are:

• The percentage of students absent is greater than 15%.

• The percentage of staff members absent for illness is greater than 5%.

• Rate of coronavirus-related nurse visits per 1,000 students is greater than 5.

“We are fortunate to have this (local) data,” board member Brian Perry said.

Marschhausen said the local data points have indicated a move in the right direction.

“If we continue the current trend, by November, I think maybe we can be 'all in,'” Marschhausen said.

The district will continue using a “watch week” before making any change to the instructional mode.

Franklin County has been at Level 2, or orange on the state advisory system, for several weeks, and, accordingly, the district has been in its hybrid mode in which half of the district’s students attend classes on alternating days.

The district could be downgraded to eLearning 2.0 remote learning or upgraded to all-in in-person learning, even while Franklin County is still orange, based on the CATS indicators, according to the new protocols.

Under the current Level 2, the district could move to all-in in-person learning when the district’s COVID-19 transmission rate per 100,000 people is less than 50 and all CATS indicators are below the thresholds.

Likewise, even if Franklin County were to be downgraded to Level 3, or red, Hilliard still has a path to remain in hybrid mode if the CATS indicators remain below the thresholds.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo