Whitehall students will remain in hybrid learning mode until at least Dec. 10; sports still suspended

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Whitehall-Yearling High School is at 675 S. Yearling Road.

The Whitehall City Schools board on Saturday, Nov. 21, voted 3-2 against the district switching to remote learning from its partially in-person hybrid mode, upholding a decision made Nov. 19.

Sports remain suspended until at least Dec. 18 because of worsening conditions during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

On Nov. 19, the board had voted to remain in hybrid learning mode until its Dec. 10 meeting – when the learning mode would be reevaluated – and to suspend interscholastic athletics competitions.

Previous story:Whitehall school board could reconsider learning modality; sports suspended

But hours after the No. 19 meeting adjourned, district officials indicated that based on the latest advisories from Franklin County Public Health, the district could reconsider its decision to remain in hybrid mode

But nothing changed Nov. 21.

A motion by board member Zach Wright to return to all-remote learning from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18, the final day of school until Jan. 4, failed 3-2, mirroring the Nov. 19 vote.

Wright and board President Mike Adkins voted in favor of the motion, and Darryl Hammock, Jeffrey Lees and Leo Knoblauch voted against it.

Gov. Mike DeWine had announced Nov. 19 that Franklin County had been downgraded to a "purple" Level 4 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System that measures the risk of coronavirus spread in Ohio's 88 counties.

“I hope our teachers can stay the course and carry on. ... They are stressed out,” Wright said after the vote.

Wright said he believed requiring teachers to remain in the classrooms while the COVID-19 contagion is elevated is “hurting morale at this point.”

“Teachers are being overworked and are asked to do jobs they were not trained to do. ... I think we are creating a situation where teachers will walk out because they are fed up with it,” Wright said.

“As essential workers, we are asking (teachers) to keep coming into the buildings while we are meeting on Zoom," Adkins said. "We don’t need to take that chance; we’re only asking for three weeks."

The other board members said COVID-19 is not spreading in the schools and students need some in-person instruction.

Based on local data, “the processes (to limit COVID-19 exposure) are effective and working,” Lees said.

Lees said although the “law of averages” make it probable the COVID-19 caseload will increase in the near future, “there are many other facets” to consider.

He said he is concerned that a return to the remote learning that the district employed after March 13 and until Sept. 21 would be detrimental to the education of learning-disabled children and those enrolled in individualized education program.

“I want our kids to stay on track,” Hammock said.

Some students are self-motivated, but others need to be accountable to teachers and learn more effectively in the classroom, he said.

“Let’s keep them in the classroom," Hammock said.

Currently, 614 of the district’s 3,400 students are enrolled in an all-remote academy offered for families who did not want to resume in-person learning in September, said Chris Hardy, director of accountability and instruction for the district.

During the past two months, 70 families have asked to have students added to the academy, but that has proven difficult because staffing for the online academy and the hybrid model already is established, he said.

If remote enrollment increased, the district would need to move a teacher from the hybrid model to the remote model and then reallocate the teacher’s students among other teachers in the hybrid model, Hardy said.

“It impacts a lot of families," he said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo