There was no indication after Tuesday’s meeting if Bowling Green City Schools students will continue learning online or return to the classroom in a hybrid model.
The board will meet again Thursday, at which time a decision will be made.
Tuesdays’ two-hour meeting, which was held virtually, was mostly questions by board members and answers by administrators.
Students have been attending online lessons since Sept. 8. If the district goes to a hybrid model, that will start Oct. 27.
Superintendent Francis Scruci pointed out his error in saying during last week’s meeting the return date would be Oct. 20.
“We’re not going to wait until the first nine weeks is over,” Scruci said about that Nov. 13 date. “That’s too long.”
“This board has a big decision to make Thursday,” Scruci said. “This is going to be another decision where the board is going to make half the people happy and half the people upset.”
The administrative team met Monday for two hours and talked about the emails received from parents, teachers and students.
This has been a work in progress, Scruci said, and something none of us has experienced.
“We’re shooting in the dark,” he said.
Twice in the past week the internet lines have gone down in the buildings and teachers evolved and delivered lessons from home, Scruci said.
That bump is not reason to stay remote or go to the hybrid model of teaching, he said.
“It’s very easy to tell this board, tell the superintendent, what we ought to be doing … but the decision lies on the shoulders of these people. Any repercussions from those decisions fall on the shoulders of the five board members and the superintendent. We have to look at the bigger picture, we certainly can’t look at it in one snapshot,” Scruci said.
The numbers share by Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Robison are concerning, but Scruci said he didn’t know if that was reason to stay out of the buildings or go to hybrid.
Robison provided updated numbers on the coronavirus and its impact in Bowling Green.
There are 148 active cases in Wood County.
“That is one number that’s valuable for us to look at,” he said.
However, 47% of the cases identified in the last two weeks affect those ages 20-29, while 27% affect those ages 0-19 with most in the 18-19 range.
“We’ve had some pretty substantial impacts from our college age groups,” he said.
The governor reports every Thursday on cases per 100,000 people.
In Bowling Green during the last two weeks, the number of cases is 254. Converted to cases per 100,000, that equals an instance rate of 806 cases per 100,000 people. Take out the university, and that drops to 215 cases per 100,000 for the city.
In the county, the number is 198 cases per 100,000.
The CDC lists high incidents as anything over 100, Robison said.
Bowling Green, which is the most impacted community in the county, is trending eight times higher than the threshold set by the CDC, he said.
However, looking at other school districts, one case does not tend to lead to additional cases, he said.
If Bowling Green returns to the classroom, “you will probably see cases, especially given that we are at a high incident rate here in Bowling Green. But it is possible if the trend holds for Bowling Green City Schools, as it has in other places, we would see cases eventually come in. But with precautions we may not see additional cases spread within the school district itself,” he said.
Talking with his colleagues, they are finding that generally speaking, coronavirus cases in schools do not lead to additional cases in the educational community.
However, if a school does not follow the guidelines, “all bets are off,” Robison said.
Scruci said — again — this district cannot be compared with others.
“Obviously, we’re different from our neighboring communities because of the university,” he said.
Robison said there is no indication the university cases are staying on campus. Students eat and shop in town, he said.
He does not have a crystal ball telling him when the virus may end, but until then, decisions must be made on the information at hand.
“The primary means by which COVID is spread is through droplets when within the 6-foot range,” Robison said.
High-touch surfaces also can contribute and if a classroom isn’t comfortable enough for students to keep their masks on, that is a challenge.
A school must allow for social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing – and students must stay at home if sick and honor the quarantine restrictions.
“A school’s ability to apply those guidelines will have a direct impact on their ability to mitigate and prevent the spread,” Robison said.
Many in the community and some parents and students want the district back face to face, five days a week, Scruci said.
“We can’t do that. Our classrooms are not capable of maintaining 6-foot social distancing and keeping our kids spread (out),” Scruci said.
Transporting the entire student body by bus while maintaining one child per seat also is impossible.
If the district looks at four or five days, the only way to make it work is by disregarding the 6-foot social distancing and the busing guidelines.
Scruci said it is not fair to compare BGCS with those districts with Tiffin and Findlay universities, which both have much smaller campuses.
When comparing to other Division 1 schools in similar settings, most have surrounding public schools going remote, he said.
Online learning has presented challenges for families, and while it is not perfect, teachers have been committed to doing the best they can.
If the board decides to go with the hybrid model, students will be divided into A and B groups.
Group A will attend in person Tuesdays and Wednesdays while Group B attends Thursdays and Fridays.
Mondays will be used for deep cleaning the buildings and allowing teachers to meet.
There is not enough staff to allow teachers to devote time to working with students during online days, Scruci said.
While students will be in the building for two full days, they will get less face time with their teacher than they do now by learning online, said Angela Schaal, director of teaching and learning.
While in the classroom, the focus will be on math, reading, science and social studies, she said, and while at-home students will get assignments that can be done independently.
Children in the same family will be put in the same group.
Intervention services will still be provided on those off days.
Board member Bill Clifford asked what will happen if a teacher opts out of returning to the classroom.
The only way that will be allowed if it is for a medical reason for themselves or someone at home.
Attendance will be tracked with assignment completion, said Melanie Garbig, executive director of pupil services.
Board member Tracy Hovest wanted to know the number of hours of instruction students are now getting and how that will differ in a hybrid model.
Schaal said K-2 students now get three one-hour blocks daily for instruction under the current system, for 12 hours a week; grades 3-5 get four one-hour blocks for 16 hours per week.
At the high school, students now get 55-minute periods twice per week per class. The hybrid model will give teachers two 50-minute periods face to face, said Dan Black, assistant principal.
Schaal agreed that students will have less availability with a live teacher in the hybrid model.
A concern remains for the social and emotional well-being of the students.
“We’re going to have to look at this and what we can do for these at-risk kids,” Black said.
Board President Ginny Stewart asked for two volunteers to establish a threshold for students and teachers that needs to be met before a decision is made to switch instructional methods.
The county is not getting better and the district will have to continue monitoring cases.
“Whatever is decided, we’re committed to making in work,” Scruci said.
“We’re confident that we can follow the protocols but I’m not confident we can keep the numbers down,” he added.
“It’s never going to be perfect until this is over,” Stewart said.