Bowling Green City Schools students may not start fall classes until September.
A new calendar may be approved at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Superintendent Francis Scruci suggested pushing the start date back during a special virtual meeting held Thursday.
Starting in September, he said, will address the heat of August and having three school buildings without air conditioning. It will allow more intensive training for teachers in the event classes go all online and gives a chance to observe what is happening with coronavirus in the community.
“I don’t feel that is in our best interest” to go five days a week as surrounding districts are doing, Scruci said. “By pushing the calendar back it affords us those three opportunities that I think are critical when we are talking about health and safety.”
Administrators will meet with the district’s legal team and union leadership to determine whether the schedule will change.
After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to support the A-B blended model of classes with the understanding that the district may start the year entirely online.
“In my eyes, I am all in favor of adopting this blended schedule … knowing that it could change between now and when school starts,” said board member Bill Clifford
But board member Norm Geer said he thinks that is backward: the district should start online, then ease back into the classroom.
He said he doesn’t want to put the community at risk by having students catch COVID-19 at school and take it home.
“What’s the easiest thing for us? All online is easy,” Scruci said. “The questions then are is that the best thing for kids socially and emotionally.”
Board member Tracy Hovest said that parents can choose to have their kids taught all online, or they can send their child back to school.
Scruci stressed that fact, adding that they are asking for a semester-long commitment from anyone wanting to start the school year online. If a student starts in the classroom and decides to transition to online lessons, that will be allowed, but not the other way.
“The safest thing we all know is to keep everyone online. Is it the best thing — that has to be determined,” Scruci said.
Geer suggested online for at least the first couple months and the go to the A-B model if things improve.
He also questioned why the other three options presented at last week’s meeting were not being considered.
Clifford said he wished to follow the professionals’ lead and not delve into the remaining options.
A survey will be sent out to parents to determine how many students will go to the online option and how many will be in the classroom.
Even with a vote to allow administrators to start planning for an A-B blended schedule, concerns remained.
“If things get worst and this continues to go upward instead of level, we deserve the right to completely change everything,” said board President Ginny Stewart, “and hope that this community understands that we are trying to do what’s best for our kids and our teachers and our community.”
Board Jill Carr said she entered the meeting in a quandary, knowing the county fair was in August as was the return of students to Bowling Green State University.
“This has to get better than it is now, not worse but better. It has to start leveling off before I would want to go ahead and say we should have kids in the buildings,” Carr said.
Geer said COVID-19 is not under control in the community.
“What is it going to be like when we have 3,000 kids in 150 classrooms each week,” he said. “Chances are going to be somebody is going to be infected … and if we lose the ability to control it, we are turning loose all of these kids … into the community.”
Scruci said it is a difficult decision.
“In my perfect world, I always thought that we should stay all online until January in hopes there will be a vaccine or treatment. … But I know that from a social and emotional standpoint, we have needs we have to meet,” he said.
If things get worse, Bowling Green classes will go online, Scruci said.
If the start of school is pushed back, the likely start date will be Sept. 21.
Eighty-five percent of teachers surveyed were in favor of seeing the calendar delayed, and 50% of them were willing to give up spring break.
The last day of class would be either the second or third week of June, unless December break is shortened, and students attend class on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.
“This will give us more time to watch what is happening,” Carr said.
“I know that this board has the best interest of our students and staff in mind,” Scruci told the 300 people who signed on to watch the meeting.
“We’re going to be criticized no matter what the decision is.”
Policies and Protocols:
Masks will be mandatory for students and staff, K-12, and on buses
Hand sanitizer stations will be installed at the entrance of each classroom
Touchless water bottle dispensers will replace drinking fountains
No visitors or volunteers will be permitted in the buildings
No field trips
Plexiglass desk shields will be available in the classroom
There will be 6-foot social distancing in the classroom
Students will not be able to use lockers or congregate in the hallways
There will be mandatory seating assignments on the bus and in the classroom (one person or family unit per bus seat)
Desks and tables will be sanitized at the end of each secondary class period and periodically in the elementary classrooms
Custodial staff will sanitize door handles and touch points throughout the day in all buildings
Parents will be required to pick up their students within 30 minutes after the student is found to have symptoms (fever and is placed in an isolation room)
No outside food deliveries will be permitted
(This story has been corrected to say that school would end in June if there was a September start.)