CW schools remain in hybrid model in face of pandemic

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, many schools are responding by transitioning to all virtual learning, but not in Canal Winchester Schools where Superintendent James Sotlar feels students are safe in buildings.

The district is remaining in a hybrid model for students who are not enrolled in CWOLA, an all online program, according to Sotlar during a Nov. 16
Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting.

“As we know, cases are increasing at a rate not seen since the pandemic started,” Sotlar said. “The good news for schools is that we’re not seeing the outbreak inside the school district as much as we’re seeing it from outside—from family gatherings to extracurricular events, parties and everything else. Back in July, when the Franklin County Board of Health and Columbus Board of Health said we should be in all remote learning, they didn’t have the data that says it’s not going to spread during school; that was their big worry.”

Sotlar said the data now indicates they are not necessarily seeing the spread in schools and that all of the precautions taken by Canal Winchester with the hybrid model, face masks, social distancing, hand washing and cleaning protocols are working.

“I think our schools right now are in a very safe place for our kids and staff,” said Sotlar. “Even with the increases that we’re seeing and positive cases throughout Ohio, the health and safety of our students will always be our number one priority. And we’re going to continue following the model we’re on with our hybrid learning model for our school-based tract. I plan on following that unless something changes or the governor comes on and says something different.”

According to statistics shared by Sotlar and posted on the district’s Webpage, from the start of school until Nov. 3, there were only four positive cases of COVID-19, two students and two staff members. During the week of Nov. 9-13, seven students tested positive and 83 were quarantined. Three staff members tested positive and six were quarantined.

Three of the students testing positive attend Indian Trail Elementary. No students or staff tested positive at Winchester Trail. One student and two staff tested positive at the middle school and three students and one staff member tested positive at the high school.

“My recommendation, at least until the end of the semester, is to stay on the hybrid schedule,” said Sotlar, who reported he does not anticipate returning to a normal schedule anytime soon. “That would not be wise.”

He believes district buildings are safe for students and it is the best place for them educationally, socially and emotionally.

“I think it’s safer here than anywhere else. Kids need to be around their peers and adults,” said Sotlar.

The district is opening registration Nov. 23 to Dec. 13 for second semester for parents who want to change from a school-based tract to CWOLA or from the all virtual CWOLA model to the school-based tract. The end of the first semester is Jan. 16.

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