Columbus City Schools will begin the return to hybrid learning as scheduled on February 1, starting with vocational tech and the district's youngest students.
Superintendent Talisa Dixon says the district has worked closely with Columbus Public Health.
"They've stated over and over that it's safe for our students to come back. We're bringing our younger students back, and there's a lot of reasearch that supports our younger students returning. However, if we see that we need to pivot and not move forward, we defintely would do so."
The blended learning program will mean two days in the classroom, and three days online instruction at home. Vocational students at the Columbus Downtown High School and Ft. Hayes Career Center were on campus under the blended model last fall and will return February 1. Students pre-K through 3rd grade will also return, as well as all students with complex needs. Dixon says these are the students who miss face-to-face instruction the most.
"And we're also - and we've stated this publicly - our concern about the number of students who are not engaged with us. The number of students who are not logging on with their Zoom classes as often as we'd like."
4th and 5th graders will return to classrooms two days a week starting February 8th, but other students will continue online until the district works out transportation issues. A shortage of bus drivers and the decreased capacity of buses due to COVID-19 precautions have complicated transportation for districts across the state, and Dixon says that's been the biggest sticking point to returning to school buildings.
As the state continues to roll out vaccination plans, school staff will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine February 1st at the earliest, While Superintendent Talisa Dixon say pritority will be given to school-based staff, it will take weeks to vaccinate teachers, custodians and bus drivers.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the head of the teachers union says the first round of vaccines should take place before a return to the classroom. Columbus Education Association president John Coneglio:
"The news of the discovery of a more infectious variant of COVID-19 here in Ohio on the very same day that a return to blended learning was announced only underscores the need to vaccinate first. Lives are at stake."
Coneglio says the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated with the district for the school year includes health and safety protocols that must be in place for any mode of instruction.
Dixon says parents who are uncomfortable about students returning to classrooms can still enroll their students in the districts Digital Academy, the online only option.
More information about the blended learning return is available on the CCS website.