Bexley City Schools dates set for start of classes, sports activities

CHRIS BOURNEA
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ThisWeek group

The start of the 2020-21 school year for Bexley City Schools students has been moved from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24 to provide more time for teachers to receive professional development and facilitate full-time distance learning that will be in effect until at least Sept. 18 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said.

The plan will allow teachers to prepare for online instruction for students who may eventually return for in-person classes if coronavirus cases decline, as well as those whose parents opt to continue distance learning for the entire school year, Miller said at the board of education's Aug. 4 regular meeting.

"We need time to plan for in-person classes and kids who won't show up at all," she said.

In a 5-0 vote during the Aug. 4 meeting, the school board approved revising the 2020-21 school year calendar. The revision provided for staff preparation through Thursday, Aug. 13, with Monday, Aug. 17, through Aug. 21 set aside for professional development. Aug. 24 was set as the first day of instruction for students, which will take place through distance learning until at least Sept. 18, at which time the district will assess whether to continue distance learning or transition to a hybrid of distance and in-person classes based on county COVID-19 data.

Staff will report in person for professional development, with social distancing guidelines in place, Miller said.

"The guideline of always being 6 feet apart and always wearing masks is always in place," she said. "One of the reasons we feel the need to bring our staff in is they need to access their materials and supplies to maximize learning."

While distance learning for students is taking place, the back-to-school plan the board approved allows for athletics and marching-band activities to occur with small groups, based on guidance from the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio High School Athletic Association. According to the plan approved Aug. 4, athletics and marching band activities will take place in three phases:

* Phase 1, through Friday, Aug. 14, said contact sports and marching band could take place with nine students per one staff member, masks must be worn if inside and 6 feet of distance must be maintained. If a downward trend in Franklin County coronavirus cases continues for 14 consecutive days, coaches can submit a plan to the district to move to Phase II.

* Phase II, Aug. 17 through Sept. 4, states based on the number of coronavirus cases countywide, larger groups would be permitted to gather outside, masks must be worn if inside and maintain 6 feet of distance

* Under Phase III, Sept. 4 and moving onward, the district will determine the feasibility of continuing the fall athletics season based on county coronavirus cases, access to competitions and guidance of public health officials.

Throughout the three phases, noncontact sports that include golf, tennis, cross country running and volleyball can continue with practices and competitions, per ODH guidance. All volleyball players must wear masks at all times because it is an indoor sport.

For more information about the district's back-to-school plan, go to bexleyschools.org.

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