School Notes: New school year has brought change, excitement to Upper Arlington
It's been an exciting month in Upper Arlington Schools as we welcomed students back for in-person learning in all our schools, including the new elementary learning spaces.
In August, we started the school year with all students in our school-based pathway learning in our enhanced-distance learning model. This was a more robust version of the distance learning families had experienced in the spring, with a structured schedule and multiple opportunities each day to connect with teachers remotely over Zoom.
The board of education had been following the improving health data and anticipated the changes, approving a hybrid transition plan that brought all our students in the school-based pathway back to school on the hybrid learning schedule the week of Sept. 21. Our hybrid schedule is a blend of in-person and remote learning for students. This allows for a reduced number of students (approximately 50 percent) in the buildings at any time and the 6 feet of physical distancing as recommended by Franklin County Public Health.
Families also had the option of enrolling their children in the UA Online Academy, our online-only learning option for the school year. There has been a huge response to this, with more than 900 students enrolling in this option for the current semester.
That makes it our second largest “school” behind only to Upper Arlington High School!
It's been wonderful for our entire staff to see our school-based students in person again and to continue to connect with our online academy students remotely.
We have been especially excited to welcome our elementary students into their new learning spaces. The new Greensview, the new Wickliffe, the Tremont renovation and addition project and the new addition at Barrington were completed on schedule and on budget for the start of the school year.
The new Windermere, the new high school and the renovation of the existing
part of Barrington also remain on budget and on schedule to be completed for the fall of 2021.
We are all eager to return to a five-day a week schedule for all our students on the school-based pathway, and we are working to expand our available health data and expert support in order to ensure we are making informed decisions.
We are fortunate to be one of a few school districts involved in a pilot project with the Ohio State University, Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health to allow us to track health data and trends among the full population living within our attendance boundaries. This gives us another layer of information to consider.
Our new Medical Advisory Team will help us interpret this data. We have partnered with local medical professionals – Dr. Joe Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist at Ohio Health; Dr. Shandra Day, an Infectious disease specialist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center; Dr. Naeem Ali, a pulmonary disease specialist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center; and Dr. Sara Bode of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an executive board member for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Ayaz Hyder, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the OSU College of Public Health, will serve as a data adviser for the team.
I’m grateful to be able to add the expertise of this team to that of the state and local health officials who continue to offer their guidance and support.
In addition to this data, we have set up a COVID-19 data dashboard on our website to show the number of confirmed cases among our students and staff. All this data will be updated every Friday at uaschools.org/COVID-19dashboard.aspx.
Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools. Follow him on Twitter at @imhoffpaul.