By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools are moving forward with plans to open under a hybrid system with a mask mandate for all students in kindergarten through grade 12.
While there are no fundamental changes to the district’s reopening plans, Superintendent James Sotlar said state and local health departments no longer are recommending aligning school-based learning levels to current risk levels.
“They (Franklin County) said there are many factors that go into what level they are on and schools have other metrics that we should be using outside of the positivity rate of cases per county and your area code,” said Sotlar. “In our zip code, 43110 which is our biggest zip code, our case load is at 2.8 percent as of Aug. 4. They also told us to take into consideration you might have to close just one building (instead of the entire district) if you have a quarantine going on.”
In comparison, the 43137 zip code has the second lowest case load rate, but neighboring 43207 falls within the second highest rate level. Both codes are within the same school system (Hamilton Local).
“To put everything on that one (Risk level one through four) system is not a one-size-fits-all,” said Sotlar. “That’s why they want is to use other metrics—use it as a guideline, but not a one-size-fits-all for everything.
Canal Winchester’s Back-to-School plan provides two options and families can decide what is best for each student in their household.
Canal Winchester Online Academy meets the needs of those who want to keep students learning at home. The other option—School-Based—is for families who want to send students back into the classrooms and school buildings.
Public health officials continue to monitor data trends and provide guidelines and recommendations to the district for its School-Based Learning Track. On Aug 4, Governor Mike DeWine mandated a mask requirement for students in school buildings, which is a change from the district’s initial plan.
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.
The district is expanding dining spaces 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.