At this time next week, Bowling Green students will be back in the classroom.
“And we made the decision to go hybrid next week,” said school board President Norm Geer. “It almost feels like the beginning of school.”
The Bowling Green City Schools Board of Education met remotely Tuesday to review its reopening plans as well as learn what plans are being made for learning recovery.
“In the last 30 days a lot has happened,” Geer said.
The data from the first semester of schools in the area has been collected, new guidelines from the Center for Disease Control have been released and vaccines are now available to school staff, he said.
Although a lot has been done and a lot has happened, there is much more to do, Geer said.
This Friday, all county school employees will be getting their first coronavirus vaccination shot.
Bowling Green will be the host site for Elmwood, North Baltimore, Otsego and the Wood County Educational Service Center.
The clinic will go from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. with an estimated 1,000 people getting shots.
Penta Career Center and Perrysburg Schools also will be hosting vaccination sites on Friday, for a total of 2,900.
“This is a huge undertaking,” said Superintendent Francis Scruci. He added that several meetings have been held to make sure all logistics have been addressed.
BG site’s will be partnering with the Wood County Health Department and Wood County Hospital to administer the shots.
“Thanks to the vaccine being made available to our staff, it allows us to return to school in a safer environment than ever before,” Scruci said.
Students in grades K-5 will return to the classroom on Tuesday in a hybrid teaching model.
The A Group at the high school will be in session Monday.
Only the junior class will be in the high school on Tuesday to allow for social distancing while they take the ACT test.
The A Group will return Wednesday and B Group will attend Thursday and Friday.
“Our teachers and students are excited to get back,” Scruci said, “I guess to a somewhat normal setting.
“The (virus) numbers in 43402 are really starting to improve,” he said after the meeting, referring to the Bowling Green zip code.
He said the board has not set a date when the elementary grades can return to four- or five-day in-person classes.
Masks will still be required of all students and staff and 6-foot distancing will be maintained. Everyone will be reminded to wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer stations throughout the buildings.
Scruci thanked parents for the sacrifices made during the last 11 months while students received lessons online.
“As we know, this has been an extremely difficult on our families. I’m optimistic that this nightmare of dealing with this will soon be in our rearview mirrors and we can move forward together.”
Tara Loar was the first and only community member who signed up to speak at the meeting, which was held via Zoom.
“I understand that these decisions were not taken lightly,” she said, referencing the board’s and administration’s hesitancy to bring students back to the classroom until now.
“They were made 100% in an effort to protect our children, our teachers and community members. You should all be applauded for your dedication,” Loar said.
She said teachers have adapted and thrived and have shown by example what it means to be “Bobcat proud.”
Loar also praised the students, who have shown they are stronger than anyone could have imagined.
On Monday, the district saw the best numbers ever in regard to its matrix, Scruci said.
There were 72 active cases in the 43402 zip code and the incidence rate has drop to 223 per 100,000, according to last week’s statistics.
“These are the lowest numbers we’ve seen since late October and early November. And with vaccinations on the horizon, I believe there’s optimism for things getting under control and us moving forward,” Scruci said.
Two weeks ago he and staff started talking about how to get kids back up to speed when they return to the classroom, followed by Gov. Mike DeWine announcing he wanted districts to have a plan by April 1 to share with their communities on how to catch students up from the last 11 months.
The administrative team met last week and will continue discussions this week, focusing separately on secondary and elementary planning.
“Today’s planning meeting was really productive, and we have an outline of what we hope to be presenting to the board at our March board meeting,” Scruci said.
Administrators are looking at addressing immediate needs, perhaps an extended-day plan that can be utilized while school is in session; as well as offering a summer school program.
The focus is going to be on English, language arts and math.
What can be done will be determined on the financial help offered from the state, Scruci said.
Over $366,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security funds were received in this fiscal year, allowing the district to put a Chromebook into every student’s hands, and purchase cleaning and sanitizing products, said Treasurer Cathy Schuller.
As of Feb. 12, there was $65,000 remaining, she said.
Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief funds could amount to an additional $1.4 million to the district in fiscal year 2022, Schuller said.
That number is still preliminary, she said, adding that those funds should be used on learning recovery.
“This fund can help with things like facility upgrades for air quality and social distancing needs, but more importantly they want us to focus on remediation like remedial tutors, summer camps, extended school days – something that would provide additional support to students,” Schuller said.
The district is also recalling Ohio Association of Public School Employees whose jobs were cut through a reduction in force in September.
They will return to standard hours starting either Wednesday or Feb. 23.
Food service cashiers and workers may substitute for monitors during the remainder of the school year at their regular rate of pay.
“As we head back into the classrooms, I hope that all parties involved can work together to make this transition as safe and effective and exciting as it possibly can be,” Scruci said.
He referenced the partnership the school district has with the city and the work that will be done to open up a one-way gravel road extension of Faye Avenue. The extension will allow parents to enter the Conneaut Elementary parking lot via City Park and exit onto Conneaut Avenue.
The goal is to alleviate the traffic congestion that occurs on Conneaut Avenue as parents drop off and pick up their children.
Scruci said he hopes to have the roadway open next week; however, the weather hasn’t cooperated.
A new gate will allow access to the roadway from 8:15-9 a.m. and 2:45-3:45 p.m.