COVID absences force district to resume 100 percent online classes

Groveport Madison Schools Superintendent Garilee Ogden announced that effective Nov. 18, the district will return to a 100 percent remote learning model. The last day of in-person attendance for Group B students is Nov. 13, and the last day of in-person attendance for Group A students is Nov. 17.

Like many area school districts, the district began the school year in a 100 percent remote online learning model.

“Our staff worked diligently throughout the summer to ensure that we were well prepared to implement a rigorous and highly engaging online instructional model successfully. Students adapted very well from all indications, and the online classes were very effective in accomplishing their goals,” said Ogden. “When we transitioned from 100 percnet remote online instruction to our blended learning model on Oct. 19, it appeared that COVID-19 indicators in Franklin County were improving and it was safe for us to return to in-person classes two days per week. Despite our best efforts to prevent the spread in our schools, the impact of the COVID pandemic in Central Ohio has significantly impacted our ability to safely and effectively maintain our operations and provide the high-quality educational programming that our students need and deserve.”

Last week, the district temporarily suspended transportation services due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among its transportation staff. Now, conditions in the schools are such that it’s struggling to cover all of the in-person classes, even when using all available substitute teachers.

According to district officials, in the past few days, some teachers have had to work outside of their area of expertise and licensure (such as when having a middle school band director teaching a seventh-grade math class) to cover unfilled absences. Principals have had to teach courses because there’s no one else available to do so, and impromptu study halls were created when no one else was available to cover a class.

“Quite simply, I’m concerned that the quality of instruction we’re providing now is less than what it was when we were in a 100 percent remote learning mode,” said Ogden. “In just the last month alone one school has had more than 200 class periods covered by other teachers as a result of COVID-related absences.”

At present, more than 40 staff members are either infected with COVID-19 or quarantined for an extended period due to exposure to the virus. COVID-19-related student absences are also increasing, with more than 150 students either infected or quarantined today. Given the exceptionally high infection rate in the county, the district fully expects the number of staff absences to increase over the coming weeks and beyond.

“Ogden said, “We know that our staff and students can effectively conduct their work in a 100 percent remote learning model; we did it for more than a month at the start of the school year. I believe the current environment is creating more turmoil and uncertainty for students, and that we need to resume 100 percent online learning for the next several weeks.”

Based on current information, the district anticipates it will remain in a 100 percent online mode until mid-January. At that time, it will reassess conditions within the area to determine if it’s safe – and it has the capacity to support – a return to in-person classes using our blended learning (hybrid) model.

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