Hilliard school board approves students' full-time return to classrooms March 15

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Corrections: Because of a reporter's errors, a typo in Superintendent John Marschhausen's quote of "suicidal ideations" and a reversed figure for 63% of students who achieved a benchmark for reading were published in the original version of this story.

Most Hilliard City Schools students are poised to return to their classrooms full-time March 15 after the school board on Feb. 22 unanimously approved the recommendation to do so from Superintendent John Marschhausen.

Marschhausen told board members during a videoconference that although district leaders are aware of the concerns from some parents, they have “different lenses” other than epidemiology trough which to view the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the continuation of hybrid learning, including academics and mental health.

“Hybrid learning might be working for some families, but not everyone," he said. "COVID has really hurt some kids,” academically and emotionally.

The Hilliard City Schools Central Office is at 2140 Atlas St. in Columbus.

Thus far this school year, seven students had been hospitalized for COVID-19 complications, but 84 had been hospitalized for mental-health considerations and “suicidal ideations," according to Marschhausen.

The hospitalizations for mental health in a school year, districtwide, number in the low 20s, he said.

“Our kids need us,” Marschhausen said.

He said they also need to interact with their peers, albeit with social distancing and mask-wearing that will be adhered to when classes resume.

To illustrate the academic peril COVID-19 has caused, Marschhausen told board members one metric shows that 63% of students achieved a benchmark for reading, indicating 37% did not.

Marschhausen had proposed March 15 as a return to “all-in” in-person instruction to board members Feb. 8.

The move is based on four pillars: the successful vaccination of teachers and staff, a continued decline in reported COVID-19 cases in the district, a continued decline in COVID-19 positivity rate and internal school-district data remaining proportional to community data, Marschhausen said Feb. 8.

Thus far, figures have continued to trend down to allow for a return to all-in mode, Marschhausen indicated Feb. 22.

March 13 will be two weeks after Hilliard staff members receive their second and final COVID-19 vaccinations, Marschhausen said.

The district has been in a hybrid, part-time in-person mode since December.

The move to an all-in mode of education does not apply to students whose families opted into the district's Hilliard Online Academy, according to Stacie Raterman, director of communications for the district.

When students returned at the start of the school year, the district provided the option to enroll in the online academy, separate from eLearning 2.0, the remote-learning mode for students who attended in-person hybrid classes.

The students in the Hilliard Online Academy committed to enrollment for the remainder of the semester and will continue until the end of the academic year, Raterman said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo