Hamilton Township Schools to go with online plan

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Hamilton Local Schools, like so many other districts across Franklin County, are revising plans to start the 2020-21 school year under a hybrid policy to an all-remote educational format under guidance from Franklin County Public Health.

Following a July 29 review of the health department’s updated advisement, Hamilton Local Schools Superintendent Mark Tyler said the district will open the school year using a virtual plan, in addition to suspending all extracurricular activity as of July 30. The school start date was also pushed back to Aug. 31.

“The later we start, the more opportunity we have to come back,” said Tyler.
“Our Virtual plan has a dedicated schedule for students to be online live with their teachers each day,” Tyler wrote in a late July letter to the community, “…we will have live teacher instruction daily, attendance will be taken, and assignments will be graded.”

Tyler said the district is buying 700 new Chromebooks, of which 600 were purchased through Cares Act funding. Students in need of a Chromebook to participate in virtual learning will receive information later this month on the distribution of the devices.

“At the end of this purchase, we will be one-to-one for grades four through 12,” said Tyler, who added the ratio for children in lower grades is one for every two students.

Tyler stated the choice to go to the all-electronic format was not made lightly and he knows some people will be happy with the decision, while others will be upset. He said this is probably the most difficult thing he has ever done in his career.

“I want you to know that we want nothing more than to have our students back in our buildings, which is why we are not committing to staying in a virtual setting for nine weeks or a semester” wrote Tyler on July 29. “At a minimum, I will be meeting weekly with local health commissioners to get their latest reports and recommendations to make the best operations decisions for our district as we move through this pandemic.”

Hamilton Local Schools Board Vice President Jeff Sewell said they are dealing with times and circumstances they have never encountered before, and he knows the community wants to see kids back in school.

“We’re not going to rush into any decision regarding the health and safety of our children and staff,” Sewell said.

Board President David Schutte pointed out, from day-to-day and even hour-to-hour things change regarding pandemic responses.

“Hopefully, this will all be over soon, and we can get back to normal,” said Schutte.

Regarding extracurricular activities, Tyler said district representatives are in conversation with local health officials about operating extracurricular programs in a Phase 1 status, similar to what was done in the spring, which allows participants to continue skills-based training in groups of 10 people at a time.

For information, review the district’s online Opening Plans document and an update from Franklin County Public Health at www.hamilton-local.k12.oh.us. Also email restartquestions@hlsd.org or call 614-491-8044.

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