By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools’ parents have two options for educating their children for the 2020-21 school year, one school-based—depending on pandemic risk levels established by the state—and an online learning academy.
The school-based track maximizes in-person instruction with all K-12 students in buildings five days a week, provided Franklin County is at a Risk Level One or Two. At Level Three—where Franklin County currently stands—a hybrid learning track kicks in for students in grades 1-12.
Depending on their last name, students are divided into two groups for alternating two day in-person learning and three day online virtual leaning to reduce the number of students in a building at one time.
Households with multiple last names default to the oldest student’s last name and preschool, kindergarten and self-contained special education classes remain on their traditional weekly in-person schedule.
If Franklin County is put on a Risk Level Four, all students in the school-based track transition to five day online virtual learning provided by their current teachers.
“This is not the plan any of us wanted,” said Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar during the Canal Winchester Board of Education’s July 20 online meeting, when the plan was approved. “There were very few options for us. We felt it was very important to use these levels. We’re following guidelines set by Franklin County health requirements, mandates and recommendations. This helps us in planning on how to get students back to school.”
If risk levels change up or down mid-week, school plans for that level would not go into effect until the following week. However, if the level escalates to a four, then the district would immediately follow any orders set by the governor, similar to what happened in March.
Masks are required for all in-building staff under all levels. Unless the situation changes, masks under Level One and Two are recommended for all students.
However, students who are bused to school are required to wear a mask at all times, are limited to two riders per seat and must load the bus back-to-front and unload front-to-back.
At Level Three, masks are required for all students in grades 3-12 and recommended for kindergarten through grade two.
The district is expanding dining spaces in order to meet social distancing. Students will eat Grab-& Go breakfast in class and free/reduced take home meal bags will be provided when necessary.
Field trips are cancelled, there are no large group events and extracurricular activities will follow Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines. Parents are urged to daily assess their child’s health before sending them to school.
If symptoms appear at school, the student will be isolated in a quarantine room with a mask and parents must pick up their child as soon as possible. The district will communicate with Franklin County Public Health about the situation.
“All schools have a COVID room in case we have to put students or staff in there,” said Sotlar. “If I believe or feel we cannot safely be in school without a mask on, I have no problem (ordering mandatory masks for everyone). We’re going to increase cleaning routines throughout the building. There will be extra cleaning in classrooms, and we’ve installed hand sanitizing stations in each classroom and hallway.”
Sotlar said the district is going to do its best to keep kids three to six feet apart, is doing away with flexible seating as much as possible, is eliminating the use of lockers and cubbies, establishing one-way hallways when possible and not allowing visitors or volunteers.
Online learning academy
The Canal Winchester Online Learning Academy is an option open to all students who can proceed at their own pace, as well as providing support from their school building and access to school counselors.
“The most important part of the online learning academy for K-5 is our teachers are developing the curriculum,” said Sotlar.
Children in kindergarten through fifth grade will be taught by Canal Winchester teachers. Students in grades six through 12 will utilize Edmentum Courseware for their instruction, along with support from a district teacher as necessary.
However, academy students should be self-motivated to work through assigned modules on their own, at their own pace.
Both learning tracks—in-school and online academy—will end when the semester is over. Students can continue the following semester in the same track or switch to the other track.
The school board approved changing the school start date to Sept. 2 for students in grades three, six and nine and then Sept. 3 for group A (Monday-Tuesday for last names A through K) and Sept. 4 for group B, (Thursday-Friday for last names L through Z).
“We need time to assess our plans,” said Sotlar.
School fees, except for AP testing, were also eliminated for the 2020-21 term.
The high school and middle school will end 30 minutes earlier to load buses in an orderly fashion and get buses back to the elementary school on time.
Parents can find information and sign-up for either school-based or the online academy by logging into their OneView account and filling out the Back-to-School 2020-21 form at canalwinchester.esvportal.com.
All forms should be completed by July 31 to reserve a student’s place in either the classroom or online academy. Learning tracks must be selected before any teacher assignment, course schedules or bus schedules are determined for students.
“The document we have here is good, but it’s not set in stone,” said Sotlar, who added things could change according to state, Franklin County health or governor orders.