Worthington Schools students will resume in-person learning March 22

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Students pass through the hallways between classes March 10 at Thomas Worthington High School. After spending nearly a year in a combination of hybrid and remote learning because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Worthington Schools is planning to bring all of its approximately 10,000 students back to classrooms five days a week, beginning March 22.

After spending nearly a year in a combination of hybrid and remote learning because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Worthington Schools is planning to bring all of its approximately 10,000 students back to classrooms five days a week, beginning March 22.

The district has gone through alternating periods of hybrid and remote learning going back to the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020. Those learning modes followed Gov. Mike DeWine's announcement that schools throughout the state would close to in-person learning.

“School is meant to be an everyday endeavor,” Superintendent Trent Bowers said. “Our students will benefit from routine, they’ll benefit from structure, they’ll benefit from increased social interaction with one another. We believe our families will benefit. And as a school district, we just can’t wait to get back into this traditional mode of school.”

The district transitioned from remote learning to hybrid learning Jan. 11 – a combination of remote instruction from home and bringing students into schools in groups several days out of the week instead of five continuous days.

Students pass through the hallways between classes March 10 at Thomas Worthington High School. After spending nearly a year in a combination of hybrid and remote learning because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Worthington Schools is planning to bring all of its approximately 10,000 students back to classrooms five days a week, beginning March 22.
Thomas Worthington High School is at 300 W. Dublin-Granville Road.

Assistant Superintendent Angie Adrean said she recalled last year when COVID-19 began to receive increased attention in the news and her and district staff began to hear whispers that the virus could develop into a pandemic and potentially cause schools to close temporarily.

She said district staff members had anticipated any shutdowns lasting for a few weeks at most, and she is happy that students will return to buildings full-time after nearly a year.

“We quickly changed our academic team meeting agenda and focused on how we can support being remote for a week or so,” she said. “That week of remote learning turned into a year of home and in-person learning with 6 feet of social distancing and masks. I am proud of our collaboration with administrators, teachers, staff, students and families. We are better because we did it together.” 

Adrean said Worthington Schools’ last day still is scheduled May 26. 

In his March "It's Worth It" monthly guest column for the ThisWeek Worthington News, Bowers said the district decided to move ahead with full reintegration based on the “timing” of teachers receiving COVID-19 vaccines and data illustrating a “significant decline” in infections recently. He also said “schools have proven to be safe places with low infection rates.”

Several mitigation strategies will be in place when students return to school, the first being the continuation of a districtwide mask mandate, according to Bowers.

Bowers said it is recommended that students double-mask, though it will not be required.

Anyone who needs a mask will be provided one, he said.

“Our students have done a great job wearing a mask this school year, so I think that’s a protocol that they understand and that’s been in place,” Bowers said.

A 3-foot social-distancing measure also will be in place throughout classrooms, with a 6-foot mandate at lunch, Bowers said. He said the district would add accommodations at lunchtime to meet these guidelines.

“Our students are going to eat in some nontraditional spaces,” he said. “We’re going to open up some more open lunch for our juniors in high school.”

Lastly, Bowers said, district buildings will have open windows to increase air ventilation and continue with stringent sanitization, cleaning and hand-washing protocols.

“Many of these protocols have been in place,” Bowers said. “The major change is we’ll be social distancing to 3 feet in the classroom instead of 6 feet.”

Bowers said the district will monitor COVID-19 figures throughout the district and adjust accordingly. But, he said, district officials are confident that the upcoming reintegration will go smoothly.

“We believe this is going to be successful,” Bowers said. “We believe that schools have proven not to be the environments we were concerned about throughout the fall. But we will continue to monitor our numbers, we will monitor them every day, and if for some reason it’s not as successful as we’re hoping, we’ll make adjustments.” 

Worthington Schools’ decision to bring students back in person full-time mirrors other central Ohio school districts. 

For example, Upper Arlington Schools students returned to buildings five days a week March 1, Westerville City Schools brought its students back March 8, and Hilliard City Schools and Dublin City Schools decided to return students to in-person classes March 15.

ThisWeek called twice and left a voicemail message with the Worthington Education Association seeking comment for this story but had not received a reply as of March 12.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve