Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is scheduled to release state guidelines on education on Thursday, but districts around the state have been exploring options for the next school year for weeks if not months.
Last night, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon presented her vision to the school board. Alison Holm reports.
In a year that has been full of uncertainty, Dixon says no plan is final.
“We know our families would like to receive final plans now - COVID-19 simply does not allow it.”
But one thing is certain – schools in 2020-2021 will be much quieter.
Under the plan proposed Tuesday night, education will be completely online for high school students for at least the first two quarters of the year. They can work with other students and CCS teachers online, or opt for a self-guided program called CCS Digital Academy.
K-8 students will have the choice of attending the virtual academy as well, or opting for a blended approach of “brick and click” - two days in the classroom and three days online, completing assignments or doing more intensive work on the classroom lessons.
Plans are still being made for Special Education, English Language Learners, and technical and trade programs.
The plan relies heavily on technology, which the district scrambled to assemble when schools closed in mid-March. Close to 20,000 Chromebooks were distributed to students, but Chief Information Officer Vandhana Veerni says an additional 20,000 are needed. And internet access needs to go beyond the mobile hotspots.
“We are actually working with other stakeholders in the city to embrace broadband access as a public utility, and how to give it to families in the city of Columbus.”
In order to limit kids exposure while they are in school buildings, K-8 students will be grouped in home rooms who spend the day together – for class, meals and recreation. And to cut down on transportation and other scheduling hassles, families with multiple students will all be grouped in the Monday and Tuesday classes, or the Thursday and Friday classes. Staff will be required to wear masks while at work, students will be required to wear masks on the bus, and strongly recommended to keep them on in the classroom.
The new requirements will cost close to $100 million for one-time and on-going expenses. $27 million will come from the federal CARES Act, but the remainder will need to come from the districts’ general fund. Some of the budget items approved by the board Tuesday evening for the first three months of the school year include $200,000 for masks, and over $560,000 for hand sanitizer.
Transportation remains another uncertainty, as making provisions for social distancing would cut bus capacity in half. Superintendent Dixon says making plans for transportation, staffing and allocations means the district has to act quickly. While the school year won't begin until after Labor Day, Dixon says registration for the virtual CCS Digital Academy will begin July 13th and run through August August 1st.