Springfield City Schools present initial fall reopening plans

Springfield City Schools need to create an environment that is safe, fluid and not necessarily normal, the district superintendent said in preliminary plans for reopening in the fall.

“What people need to understand at this point is to make things safe, not normal because normal doesn’t really exist anymore,” Superintendent Bob Hill said during a presentation to the school board this week.

The learning environment will likely look different and the district will have to be “very fluid” as they continue to serve their students, Hill said.

The school’s recommendation will be for each family to choose between two learning models – 100% remote learning or 100% site-based learning.

The remote learning would utilize OnCourse Systems, which is a school management software for grades K-12. Students will still take remote learning classes with this software five days a week, and it can offer all courses normally done in person.

If a family chooses this option, the student will have to remote learn for the entire school year and will need to have internet or Wi-Fi available, Hill said.

The site-based learning will resume with social distancing and safety protocols, such as face coverings required by staff, student face coverings required on buses and during any one-on-one interaction inside a six-foot space, and increased sanitation.

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If a student is at a desk, Hill said they don’t necessarily have to wear a mask as it’s not within unacceptable guidelines. He also said they will set up certain protocols with masks for students in grades 3 through 12.

The district will most likely ask families to provide masks for their children, and the schools will provide them when necessary, but they would have to make sure they have enough to do so, Hill said.

Ohio is requiring school staff to wear a face covering unless it’s unsafe or when doing so can interfere with the learning process and it is strongly recommended for children in third grade and up to wear face masks, according to guidelines set by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Schools will also have to implement their own face covering policy, assess students and staff for symptoms, wash and sanitize hands, thoroughly clean and sanitize school environments and practice social distancing, according to the state guidelines.

Hill said the district is not in a situation to recommend one model or another to families but can attempt to meet children where they are in their education needs.

He also said that the district plans to create an information web page and utilize various communication channels to provide information on the two options.

“Hopefully by the end of July we will have a better idea of who is choosing what and then that allows us to plan buildings for reopening,” Hill said.

The district will also set up classrooms based on guidance from the local health department, including removing all non-essential furniture from classrooms that would be stored in the gym, which would put students at about 21-22 per class with six-feet distancing, Hill said.

Furniture that would stay in the classrooms include fixed cabinets, anything on the walls, technology equipment, teacher desks and student desks, Hill said.

Hill said the preschool model is still being developed but said there would only be nine students permitted in the classroom, which means students would not be able to have a full-day and would have to go to half-day sessions – a.m. and p.m.

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A survey was sent out to students, families and staff members at the end of June on how they feel about school in the fall.

The district received 725 responses from the community survey – 55% said they would send kids back, 28% was unsure due to not knowing what the actual fall plan looks like and 27% prefer remote learning.

The district received 973 responses from the staff survey – 83% wanted to return to traditional learning, 14% are unsure and 22% prefer remote learning for students.

Hill said there will be a lot of training that comes with reopening, and that they may need additional time to make plans work. He said he is looking to adopt a new calendar that allows staff to take 12 hours of district required training from Aug. 17 to 21, with additional time to be self-guided with a personalized approach.

The district is not looking to change the school start date of Aug. 26 or end date of May 25.

The next steps include reviewing guidance from the Ohio Department of Education and having meetings to figure out the rest of the plans and what classes will look like in the fall, Hill said. He hopes to finalize the district’s “guidance documents” by July 15 to be approved at the next board meeting.

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