PEMBERVILLE – Eastwood Local Schools will start the new year with students in the classroom.
In an email to parents Wednesday, Superintendent Brent Welker announced the district’s back-to-school plan.
The district will use a hybrid teaching model when school starts Aug. 25, not Aug. 26 which had previously been planned. Students also will be in class Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The entire week of Thanksgiving will be off.
“We just thought it was really important to get those couple extra days to give ourselves a little longer time at Thanksgiving so if we need to do some deep-cleaning in the buildings we’ve got time to do that,” Welker said.
There are no changes to the second-semester calendar.
“We will revisit those if needed when the time comes,” Welker said at Monday’s school board meeting.
That schedule allows school days to be four days for that week in August and for Labor Day week.
Elementary students will be in class four days a week, Tuesday-Friday.
The reasoning is students up to age 10 don’t catch or spread coronavirus like older students and adults, Welker said.
Grades 6-12 will be split into two groups, one attending Tuesday and Thursday, the other Wednesday and Friday. Family members will be in class the same days;
Mondays will be an online learning day for everyone. Older students will be online lessons on the days they are off campus.
“That is our goal, to stay in school as much as possible,” Welker said during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Masks will be required for students in grades 3-12 and all staff. Students on buses will need to wear a face mask unless they have a documented medical condition, at which time a face shield will be provided.
At the end of the third week, on Sept. 11, “we’re going to evaluate where we’re at,” Welker said Tuesday.
He said they will take into consideration the number of cases in the county and what other districts are seeing and decide to stay in the hybrid plan, go five days a week “of God forbid, we go to fully online.”
Having all students in session five days a week with a return to more normal
activities will happen when it is safe and sustainable to do so.
“The hybrid also buys us some time to evaluate not only our reopening plans, but to look at data and determine if we can make a change,” Welker said in his email. “If cases and spread are declining and the reopening of schools looks to be working, we may be able to switch to (five days a week). If cases are still increasing, we may have to stay on the hybrid. Either way, we feel that our plan gets the students who need to be in school the most, the elementary kids, four days of face-to-face instruction per week.”
He said Tuesday that his team knew after school was canceled in the spring that changes would need to occur this fall.
“I think in May we all understood we would have to make adjustments for learning plans in the fall,” he said.
Still, they all hoped coronavirus cases would decline over the summer.
“The fact that where we are now is not what a lot of us expected,” he said.
Other pertinent areas of the plan:
• Busing will be one student per seat, grades 6-12, except if the students are related; and two children per seat, grades K-5.
• Students will be assigned a seat on the bus, and buses will be sanitized between routes using tools including hydrostatic wands.
Anything that parents can do to reduce the number of kids riding buses would be appreciated, Welker said.
• Social distancing will be practiced in grades 6-12 in classrooms and on buses. It will be practiced where possible in elementary but will not be attainable on buses and classrooms.
• Efforts to maintain social distancing will be made during lunch. Students will have assigned seats and meals will be mostly grab and go that will have both hot and cold items.
• Traffic patterns in the hallways have been adjusted. As students leave class, they will disinfect their desks.
• There will be 12 hand sanitizing stations in each building
• Surfaces will be routinely sanitized and disinfected multiple times a day. A misting system will be used throughout the buildings to kill germs.
• Only essential visitors to the buildings will be admitted at the beginning of the year and parents will be restricted in their access to buildings.
The Eastwood Online Academy, with fully online courses will be available for students in grades K-12. Students K-8 who sign up are committed for nine weeks and those 9-12 for a semester.
Online registration will be available Aug. 3-7.
Welker said he understands parents need to go back to work and at-home lessons may not be optimal.
“We have made our schedule so kids can be in session as much as they can … and we provide something consistent,” he said.
A video has been placed on the district website www.eastwoodschools.org with a complete review of the operating plans and the rationale behind the decisions.