Upper Arlington students to return to school full time March 1
Upper Arlington School Board voted unanimously Feb. 12 during a special meeting lasting more than two hours to return to in-person classes five days a week, beginning March 1.
The move comes after the district’s Medical Advisory Board, which consists of medical professionals living in the community, noted positive COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the Upper Arlington community have dropped from about 900 to about 400 as of Feb. 11, according to Franklin County Public Health statistics.
“I think it’s worth the well-being of our students to get them back as soon as possible, given we have a downward trend,” board member Nancy Drees said.
Students received online instruction five days a week the first month of the year and were in a virtual class model from Nov. 30 through Dec. 18.
Otherwise, the district has used a hybrid model since Sept. 21. Under it, roughly half of the students attend classes Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other half Thursdays and Fridays. When not in the classroom, students have been receiving instruction and completing coursework via virtual classes.
Before the board’s decision, Dr. Naeem Ali, a pulmonary disease specialist with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and a member of the district’s Medical Advisory Board, said trends suggest the number of cases in the community should be at 200 or lower by March 1.
“We are very reassured that within the month of March we’ll achieve levels that are consistent and could support a move to a closer exposure and more students in school for more continuous time,” Ali said. “We saw no major barriers to open in March, really at all three (grade) levels.
“We’re on a downward trend. That downward trend that we’re seeing now is a large reason we’re comfortable with the direction we’re going, with opening.”
Additionally, Drees noted that as of Feb. 11, there were 16 cases at Upper Arlington High School, two at Jones Middle School and one at Barrington Elementary. Other schools had no active cases among students.
Additionally, Drees said, 90%-95% of teachers would receive their second vaccination by Feb. 28.
Superintendent Paul Imhoff said students will be spread throughout the buildings during lunch periods to allow for social distancing of six feet.
However, at least three feet of distance between students in classrooms may be difficult.
“At all other times (besides lunch), we will strive for three feet, but I will say that many times it will be less than that,” Imhoff said. “That is at all buildings.”
Despite that, Ali and district officials said coronavirus mitigation efforts in classrooms appear to be working. They added that students will be required to wear face masks at all times except when eating lunch.
The vote to return to in-person classes came after fellow board members indicated they didn’t support board member Carol Mohr’s recommendation to delay the move until March 23.
Drees and board members Jenny McKenna and Lori Trent also opposed board President Scott McKenzie’s recommendation to return K-8 students March 1, but delay the return of high school students until March 8 because of the higher number of cases there and to give teachers and staff more time to prepare for the transition.
“It’s probably in all students’ interest that there’s one transition, instead of staggered,” McKenna said.