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Columbus Schools' Reopening Plan Keeps High School Students At Home

Ohio schools, which were initially closed until May 1, will remain shuttered through the end of the school year.
Ryan Hitchcock

Columbus City School leaders are recommending a reopening plan that keeps high school students completely out of the classroom, at least for the first half of the school year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan outlined at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting would mean full-time remote learning for students in grades 9-12 for the first two quarters.

Students in kindergarten through 8th grade would have two days of in-person instruction every week, as well as three days of remote learning. Group A would attend class on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Group B would be in classrooms Thursdays and Fridays.

For pre-K students, the district is offering options of two full days of in-person learning along with three days of remote learning, or four half-days at school and a fifth day of remote learning. 

Students within the same family will attend in-person classes on the same days.

All students would eat meals in the classroom and students would be required to use water bottles instead of drinking directly from water fountains.

The plan requires masks for employees, but makes them optional for students except when on buses. In a survey, 70% percent of parents said they would send their children to school if there was a mask requirement for students.

School buildings will be cleaned and disinfected each night after in-person classes with a hospital-grade disinfectant and electrostatic disinfectant sprayers. Visitors and volunteers in the building will be limited and there will be no in-person field trips.

The district is allowing students in any grade the option to complete coursework virtually if a family does not want to send children back to school buildings. Columbus' digital academy goes beyond the virtual learning from the end of last school year and allows for more self-paced learning. 

The district is also exploring options for providing computers and internet access for students who need them. In the spring, the district said it distributed 19,619 Chromebooks and more than 1,000 Wifi hotspots.

A district press release says the plan is still considered tentative because they're awaiting guidance from the state and agreements with labor unions. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to provide reopening guidelines for the state's school districts on Thursday.

High school students would have the option of taking the district's online curriculum, which includes the instruction from teachers, or a self-paced digital academy through Apex Learning with supervision from Columbus teachers. 

The district is also giving additional considerations for students with special needs, English language learners or students who are in programs that may require more in-person instruction, including career and technical education.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.
Nick Houser leads the digital media team and oversees all things digital, including wosu.org, columbusneighborhoods.org, digital content, the WOSU Public Media Mobile App, social media, enewsletters, podcasts and on-demand video.