Pickerington Schools to return to in-person classes full time April 5

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

Pickerington Schools announced Feb. 15 students will return to in-person classes on a full-time basis April 5.

Superintendent Chris Briggs said the move will come after staff members receive their second rounds of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccinations “at the end of March.”

Pickerington Schools district offices

“After staff vaccinations are completed, the five-day per week in-person learning will begin on April 5, upon return from spring break,” Briggs said on the district’s website.

District teachers and other staff members are expected to receive the first round of the vaccine Feb. 26, according to the district.

The district has operated in a hybrid model throughout the 2020-21 school year.

Through that model, roughly 50% students from each school building in the district who haven’t enrolled to take all classes online attend classes at their schools Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half of students take in-person classes Thursdays and Fridays.

All students are taking classes online on Wednesdays.

Briggs said students who take all classes online via the district’s Virtual Learning Academy will remain in that model after April 5.

“We realize that an April 5 return date is later than some of our neighboring school districts,” he said. “However, our safe return date has been directly dictated by the order with which vaccinations were made available to staff.”

Briggs also announced beginning Feb. 16 students missing scheduled in-person classes due to weather-related school cancellations through the remainder of the hybrid schedule will make classes up on Wednesdays. 

“This will occur up to a maximum of four days (if it happens before the full-time return of in-person learning 5 days per week for all students),” the announcement stated. “The implementation of this new rule will begin on March 3 because we have ACT testing already scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24.”

Due to concern about the number of students currently failing, particularly at the high school level, Briggs said students who have fallen behind will be required to attend in-person classes on Wednesdays, beginning Feb. 24.

Crystal Davis, the district's public relations director, said the announcement came as Briggs used his authority as superintendent to determine when in-person classes would return on a full-time basis.

She and Briggs said the plan will be introduced to the Pickerington School Board on Feb. 22.

“Our administrative team has been working on the full five-day per week learning transition plan, which will be presented to the community and the board of education at their Feb. 22 meeting,” Briggs said. “At that meeting, we will also provide details on transportation, staffing and a robust summer school plan.”

Although the school board has discussed the possible return of students to full-time, in-person classes, it had not set a date for the transition before Briggs' announcement. 

Board member Vanessa Niekamp said it's something the board has wrestled with, as it's tried to balance student and staff safety with the education and child-care needs of families. 

"Teachers express concerns for their health and substitutes are difficult to secure for the same reason," Niekamp said. "Families struggle to fill the gaps in their child’s education. 

"We, board members, hear from parents who desperately want their child to return to the classroom for an entire week, those who want to remain in a reduced schedule, and those who believe it is not safe to attend any class in-person. Unfortunately, there is no decision we can make that will please everyone. Balancing our students mental well-being, health and need for education is everyone’s first priority." 

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate