ROSSFORD – The school district will follow a hybrid model for class attendance, it was decided at Wednesday’s special board of education meeting.

Masks will be mandatory for all students and staff.

Before the vote, Superintendent Dan Creps gave a presentation which explained how the hybrid model and mandatory use of masks were the best choices to minimize the spread of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A copy of the presentation can be found on the school’s website. The board meeting was held online via Zoom.

The hybrid model involves dividing the student population into two cohorts. The plan is to have Monday as an entirely online class day, with Cohort 1 coming to school on Tuesday and Thursday, and Cohort 2 coming in on Wednesday and Friday. On days when not in school, students will have online lessons to do.

The other two options the board and district considered were to have the students attend school full time five days a week, or to go completely to online.

Creps said that their plans allows flexibility. In case infections soar and schools are shut down, the online option is in place. He said online instruction could also start if too many students and teachers are absent due to illness.

If the infection rate remains low enough, there is a plan to go back to classes five days a week.

For those parents who were not comfortable with having their children going to school at all, the district will offer an online program called NOVA. Those students selecting this program will only be able to switch to physically attending school at the end of the first semester.

Creps said that the decision to recommend the hybrid model was a result of several factors. He pointed out that the parent survey was not the only information considered in making the choice. They also took into account guidance from organizations including the teacher groups, the CDC and the Wood County and Ohio health departments.

“The success of this school year will depend on the cooperation among all the parties, recognizing we have to lay aside differences of opinion and work together for the common good,” Creps said.

He added that they are going to need everyone to be flexible and understanding.

Board member Tiffany Densic, who had favored keeping the school to a five-day schedule, said that their students might decide to transfer to Lake Local Schools.

In regards to the parent survey, she pointed out the final vote was almost evenly split, with 50.8% of parents opposed to sending their children to school five days a week no matter how closely the school followed health department guidelines. There were a total of 1,077 responses to the parent survey.

She also said that other schools, such as those in Fulton County, were also going with a five-day schedule, and that Rossford student athletes likely would be interacting with neighboring teams.

Board President Dawn Burks said counties like Fulton were still at level 1 in coronavirus infections, while Wood County at level 3. It was dropped to level 2 on Thursday.

Board member Kent Murphree said many of these concerns were a result of the lack of a mandate from the State of Ohio to set statewide guidelines.

He said he favors the hybrid system because in the case COVID-19 infections come into the school, only 50% of the student population would be exposed on any given day.

Murphree asked if families could select which cohort they would attend. Creps said in general, changes could only be made in extreme cases. He also said the cohort population is compiled from the database of families, so that even if there are different last names in the household, all would be put in the same cohort.

Creps said parents can expect to be told which cohort their children were in by Aug. 1. If parents would want to consider attending NOVA online instruction, there will be an online informational meeting with Rossford’s curriculum director on Aug. 4. Parents would need to make commitment to NOVA by Aug. 7.

Densic asked if NOVA was a charter school. Creps said it was not and that students participating in NOVA would still be Rossford students. Creps added that it was necessary to employ NOVA because the Rossford teaching staff would be stretched to its limits handling the daily instruction of students both online and on site each day.

Densic also questioned how the school would enforce the mandatory mask policy. Creps said that if a student came to school without a mask, one would be provided.

If the student refused the mask, the school could cite the student for a violation of the student code of conduct, or disruption of school. Parents would be contacted. Creps said the student might be assigned to to other instructional methods.

The district will creat isolation rooms for students with fevers. They would wait there until they parents come to pick them up. Students’ temperatures would be taken as they arrive at school. Any student with a fever 100 degrees and over would be sent home. A doctor’s slip will be needed to return.

The school will also have assigned seating on the bus and in classrooms. Elementary classes in art, music and STEM would be taught quarterly, to reduce students moving between class rooms. At the high school, a 4 x 4 class schedule will help reduce student population mixing.

Also in attendance was Ben Batey, Wood County health commissioner. He said that the department would work closely with the school to monitor quarantines and perform contact calls when a student is diagnosed.

He pointed out that controlling the rate of infections would help to avoid over-loading the health department staff.

Bates also emphasized that now was the time to have a family physician because students sent home with a fever would need a doctor’s slip to come back. He added that those families who are limited in their health care choices due to finances should call the health department for help finding health care.