Upper Arlington Schools to start in-person classes Sept. 21

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

After starting the school year with virtual classes, Upper Arlington Schools students will return to buildings Monday, Sept. 21.

In line with the “Responsible Restart Plan” unanimously approved by the Upper Arlington Board of Education on July 31, all district students will return to classes via a hybrid model that will see only 50% of them in buildings each day.

All students who have not opted to take all classes online via the district’s Online Academy will be separated into two cohorts and will attend in-person classes on an alternating schedule. The cohorts are designed so 50% of the student body will attend in-person classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the other 50% will go to school Thursdays and Fridays. The following week, the groups would flip schedules.

When not taking in-person classes, students will receive online, distance-learning instruction from district teachers.

“The hybrid groups are based on the first letter of last names -- A through K and L through Z -- to keep family groups together,” Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. “Accommodations were made for family groups that have more than one last name.

“Families were also able to request a switch between groups based on work schedules or childcare needs.”

Due to concerns about COVID-19 and on the advice of Franklin County Public Health, the board chose to open the school year with all students taking classes online.

After a lawsuit was filed Aug. 6 on behalf of nine parents of special-needs students to force the district to reopen its buildings to all students five days a week, the district began providing in-person classes to special-needs students with the highest needs Aug. 31.

The lawsuit remains pending in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, although five of the nine families that brought the suit have pulled out of the case and dismissed their claims against the district.

“While our primary goal is to have students in the building as much as possible, we are committed to working with public-health experts to monitor the trends in local data so that we can operate in a way that is safe for current conditions,” Upper Arlington school board President Nancy Drees said. “We are thrilled that our local data has improved and we are able to bring students back for the in-person hybrid model.”

Imhoff said updates have been made to building HVAC systems to improve air flow, new sanitation policies have been put in place and students and staff will be encouraged to frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes placed in classrooms and throughout buildings.

Students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings and will be instructed to maintain social distancing of at least six feet.

According to district officials, K-3 students will have three-sided, clear plexiglass dividers at their desks.

“This will enable teachers to give these students mask breaks while they are working at their seats,” the district’s website states. “Students will have to wear a face covering at all other times.”

The district is asking parents to keep their children home if they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a cough or shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

“The current health guidance is that if someone is showing any of these symptoms, they should remain home,” the district’s website states. “Our families should work in consultation with their family medical professionals and communicate with our school nurses.”

If a student or staff member is diagnosed with coronavirus, they should immediately contact Franklin County Public Health, according to district officials.

The ill person will be asked to go into isolation for at least 10 days, and people who have been exposed to the ill person - within six feet for 15 minutes or more - will be asked to quarantine for two weeks.

“The impact on classrooms, schools or the district will be determined by the school district, with guidance from FCPH, on a case-by-case basis,” the district website stated.

On an ongoing basis, Imhoff said, the district will examine “all of the available information from state and local health officials, including but not limited to the state health alert system” to determine when in-person classes will be held or if the district should return to distance learning.

“We continue to meet weekly with local health officials to discuss the latest trends in the data and updated safety protocols,” he said. “A transition between any of the delivery models in our school-based pathway would require a vote by the board of education.

“We are all anxious to return to having all students in school, and I know the board of education is ready to make that change as soon as the experts deem it is safe to do so,” Imhoff said. “We will continue to work with local and state health officials to review all relevant data.”

Drees said the board wants to return to a five-day, in-school schedule “as soon as it is safe to do so.”

“We will continue working with public health experts to monitor conditions, and we will continue to focus on providing high-quality educational experiences for our students in any type of instructional setting,” she said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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