PERRYSBURG — Flexibility is key for Wood County Health Department Commissioner Ben Batey as he weighed in on Perrysburg’s back-to-school plan.
Superintendent Tom Hosler presented the plan to Batey and the school board in a special meeting on Friday, in advance of a Monday evening vote.
The 2020-21 plan is based off the county risk level alerts system put in place by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.
Friday’s meeting was watched on YouTube live by more than 395 people.
Batey said that watching the alerts and making decisions on the levels is wise.
“I would recommend using it. Honestly I don’t know what other data points you would use. I think that the system is giving us trends within the community. You know, are we trending upwards or downwards?” Batey said.
The plan is built around the hybrid concept that would combine both face-to-face classroom instruction with virtual learning methods. The composition of that hybrid method would depend on the current county risk level.
Some of the plan components:
• All students would have remote learning on Mondays
• Level 1 – All K-12 students attend face-to-face class four days a week
• Levels 2 and 3 – K-6 students attend face-to-face class four days a week; 7-12 students 50% Tuesday Thursday/Wednesday Friday;
• Level 4 – All remote learning K-12
• A full remote option also available. There will be a 100% online learning option available for students who are medically fragile or otherwise unable to return to the classroom for any reason.
• If the county remains in level 1 and there are none or few students being isolated or quarantined, school district officials will work with the Wood County Health Department to consider a return to normal.
“We want to be proactive. That’s the whole point of the advisory system to begin with,” Batey said. “We’re at a level 3 right now, which seems like that’s a pretty high alert, but the hospitals aren’t being impacted yet. The ERs are not being overrun with people coming in.”
He praised the Perrysburg plan.
“I think the plan Tom laid out is trying to be more proactive on the front end, to not have to be reactive and be like, ‘now we have massive outbreaks and we need to shut down,’” Batey said. “Your plan needs to be flexible. I think you need to be very clear to all your parents. This plan can change at any point throughout the year.”
“This is not our permanent plan. It is just the start,” Hosler said.
One concern is the impact the hybrid teaching method will have on teachers, as they will have to be doing both virtual teaching and face-to-face classes simultaneously.
Three teachers have resigned.
The Monday of remote learning will be used for several purposes. In addition to being used for additional cleaning there will be students who are only taking virtual classes and special needs students will be utilizing that day with teachers.
Students who have to be quarantined or put in isolation will still need to take classes, but they will then be going virtual. He also pointed out that at any point the district could go entirely virtual, like last spring. Teachers have to be ready for it, he said.
The district will be doing tracking and tracing.
Schools will document where students are, through assigned seating on the bus, maintaining lists of students at each bus stop, assigned seating in the classroom, attendance logs for athletics, clubs and extracurriculars. There will also be tracking of interactions between employees and students that last for more than 10 minutes.
This information will then be given to the health department when it is necessary to determine a quarantine or isolation situation.
Hosler said that without school having started, there are currently three student athletes, several non-fall athlete students and two central office staff members who have been quarantined after exposure.
“This has been expanded to three custodians and a building secretary, and this is all in this week,” Hosler said. “It is a concern to those families. It is a concern to our staff. It is a concern to the community.”
The primary difficulty will be in social distancing, which is recommended at between 3 to 6 feet. The district is using recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ohio Department of Health, Wood County Health Department and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The presentations by Hosler and Batey were followed by board member questions.
“I honestly appreciate Ben’s input and information, but when you look at what he is saying, he is looking at the data of the virus. And so I think, possibly, it is one sided, where we could have had somebody in the mental health profession coming on and talking about how important it is getting children back in school. They look at it as just data driven for the virus and not the other component which is just as important to parents and students,” said board member Kelly Ewbank.
In order to have more students in class, Ewbank suggested that the district use tents for additional space.
“People in northern California are putting up tents, but I don’t know how well that works in Northwest Ohio in February,” said board member Eric Benington.
Board member Gretchen Downs pointed out that the concept would also require hiring additional teachers.
“That’s what we charge the superintendent and the staff to do. They’ve got to get in the weeds and figure things out. We’re told by the CDC, ODE, the governor, and folks who are into this every day is that we have social distancing guidelines,” said board President Ray Pohlman.