By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools students could return to the classroom full time as early as mid-March or after the district’s spring break in April.
“March 15 could be the first date we get all of our kids back in school,” said Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar with cautious optimism, while following up with the possibility of March 22 or April 5 dates for return. “With the second dose of the vaccine being distributed (to district employees) and 14 days after that, March 15 would be my first date. The last date would be April 5.”
The choice depends on how well the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is under control. Sotlar said there is one caveat to the plan.
“If we go back in March and April, it will only be for four days a week,” said Sotlar. “We have state testing and we’ll use that Wednesday for our Canal Winchester On-Line Academy kids to come into the building for testing. It’s a great opportunity to make sure all of our kids are taking the test. Come May, we’ll all go back to school five days a week.”
At the high school, the number of students attending in person will jump from 425 to 849. At the middle school, the number doubles to 708 and the same situation would bring 600 full time students to Winchester Trail and 534 to Indian Trail.
“It’s still not 100 percent because we have close to 1,000 kids in Canal Winchester On-Line Academy,”said Sotlar. “We’ll follow the same safety protocols that we have in place now. You’ll still have to wear a mask and practice three to six feet of social distancing. I truly believe we’ve got to get our kids back full time. The data that we’re seeing right now is that we’re not seeing the spread in schools.”
While Sotlar looks forward to school opening full time, he said one issue the district still needs to deal with is the logistics of feeding children in the cafeteria. He said there is enough space in the classroom, but not enough space in district cafeterias for students to maintain six feet of social distancing without wearing a mask.
The schools and the CWJRD
On Feb. 8, Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Nick Roberts updated the Canal Winchester Board of Education on the district’s relationship with the Canal Winchester Joint Recreation District and emphasized youth sports programming in the city is a joint venture of both the city and the district created years ago.
“Cities typically take that on in a recreation department,” said Roberts. “Our city doesn’t and that’s how this (CWJRD) was formed. You can either say you are all in with this or kind of let it go and let someone come in and operate it privately. I don’t think that’s the way to go. I think the best way is to have the school district involved and the city involved and operated the way it needs to be operated. I think we all need to get on the same page.”
Roberts said the district plans to meet with the city at some point to get more buy-in from Canal Winchester, whether in the form of financial support or in-kind support of helping with fields.
“But we need to be on the same page as to who has first access to our facilities once we’re done using them,” said Roberts, who said the conversation started when CWJRD started looking at cancelling its basketball season because the school district does not have enough gym access for the recreation district. “There’s a loss of $12,000 in revenue on top of what they lost from the summer and spring sports, so we’re trying to help them by taking on the fiscals to offset things. I think it’s important that we ensure youth sports is available in the district. I think it’s very important for everybody.”
Board member Matt Krueger, who is a member of the CWJRD board as a school district representative, said McGill Park will have a lot more facilities to offer the recreation district once it opens to the public. He said all indoor CWJRD sporting programs is housed in school district facilities as well as the entire soccer program on district fields.
The recreation district is also branching out to adult programming like basketball and soccer, yoga, Zumba, American Sign Language and sponsored a movie night for the community.
“What we’ve done in the last 20 some years in the CWJRD is to offer an outlet for kids to participate, learn teamwork and be involved,” said Krueger. “We’re trying to offer more scouting and art opportunities. We’re trying to figure out as a CWJRD that it’s not just about sports. It’s about community, so we’re branching out.”
Krueger said the program is self-sustaining and does not receive any money from any organization. The CWJRD is 100 percent funded by registration fees. It has one full-time employee and covers the cost of referees, equipment, field preparation and instructor fees.
According to Krueger, there is a possibility that e-sports programming could trickle down to the recreation district as well.
“It’s an amazing thing that it’s going beyond sports to be inclusive for all kids,” said board President Mike Yonnotti.