By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools plan to open on Aug. 31, however students will not attend school in the district’s buildings and instead will take classes 100 percent online.
The district will have a staggered-start for kindergarten, which is to be determined. First through sixth grades and freshmen will report on Aug. 31. Everyone else reports on Sept. 1.
“We received guidance from Franklin County Public Health, indicating that central Ohio’s current COVID-19 conditions, as they are, will not permit us (or other area school districts) to open in an in-person setting to start the new school year,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Garilee Ogden. “All Groveport Madison students, along with the other Franklin County school districts, will begin the year in the 100 percent Remote Online Learning Model. Online-only instruction will be in place until guidance comes from Franklin County Public Health that indicates students can come to school in an in-person Blended Learning Model – when COVID-19 cases decrease and remain low.”
Groveport Madison Schools Communications Director Jeff Warner said the primary advantage of the 100 percent Remote Online Learning Model is that the district and residents can be assured students and staff are safe. If the county changes from Level 3 to another level may have to change to another instruction model
“We are meeting with Franklin County Public Health weekly and will follow their guidance,” said Warner. “They are watching for a four-week sustained decrease in the number of reported COVID-19 cases before they are ready to allow schools to return to in-person classes.”
Groveport Madison will follow the guidelines set forth by the Ohio Department of Health, Franklin County Public Health, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association regarding extracurricular activities.
Warner said Franklin County Public Health recommended shutting extracurricular activities down and therefore Groveport Madison has suspended extracurricular activities pending until Franklin County Public Health and its established guidelines indicate it is safe to resume them.
“Franklin County Public Health knows, better than we, what’s best to protect students and their coaches,” said Warner.
Ogden said district officials recognize the anxiety and frustration the pandemic situation is causing.
“It’s frustrating for us as well,” said Ogden. “However, despite any other changes, our goal remains the same – to provide the best possible education to your child without compromising health and safety for all involved. We’re all in this together and we must work together.”
Originally, district officials had hoped to start the school year using the Blended Learning Model. A Blended Learning Model consists of students being split into two separate groups attending school two days per week and receiving online instruction three days per week. Under this model, half the students would be in the buildings simultaneously, which enables six foot social distancing to be in place. Masks are required for all K-12 students and staff. Safe health practices and continual cleaning and disinfecting would be in place and group activities will be limited.
But under the current situation the area is at risk for very high coronavirus exposure and spread, so the Blended Learning Model cannot be used at this time, according to district officials.
District employees will maintain ongoing efforts to keep the school buildings and grounds clean and sanitary.
“Our staff will still be working from the schools,” said Warner. “Buildings will be cleaned and thoroughly sanitized.”
When asked how district officials think the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the students’ learning and mindsets, and how the district will help the students cope, Warner said, “It’s hard to say, exactly, as all kids are different. In general, children do better when they have set routines, which includes the daily interactions with friends and teachers when they’re at school.”
Warner said the district will try to make online classes as normal and routine as possible. Classes will be done in a live-streamed format, with students having a regular daily schedule. There will be online groups, similar to the small-group work they do in school, and we will have much more interaction than we were able to do last spring.
“We will continue to focus on supporting students and their families with social-emotional assistance, including services that are available from our school counselors, social workers, and contracted mental health service providers,” said Warner. “We also plan to continue the ‘mindset’ work with our students and staff that we’ve been focusing on over the past two years. We believe these efforts have helped to better prepare our students and staff to deal with difficult circumstances, and to help them understand how they have the power (and new strategies) to manage their responses to various challenges.”
On top of the challenges the district is facing providing educational opportunities for its students, it is also dealing with limited financial resources. According to information provided by the district, the state cut $1.1 million in state funds for Groveport Madison in fiscal year 2020. Because of this, the district made $700,000 in budget reductions in 2020 and $2.7 million in 2021. There will also be hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses brought on by coronavirus preparation and mitigation efforts.
District officials caution that this is a fluid situation and things could change.
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