Urbana schools offer two options for fall reopening

Urbana City Schools has created a fall reopening plan that is flexible and adaptable, the district superintendent said.

“We all need to accept that the current pandemic is ongoing and evolving and will require patience and understanding,” said Superintendent Charles Thiel.

There will be two options offered to families for the fall – the district flex plan and the online learning program.

The district flex plan provides instruction based on the pandemic status level on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, and includes three formats, Thiel said.

“The implemented format of instruction will be determined by the level of public emergency designation for Champaign County,” Thiel said. “The variety of instructional formats are intended to allow for the maximum implementation of face-to-face instruction for students.”

The three formats include:

All-in format: All students in school every day with increased mitigation practices and policies.

Hybrid format: This will allow attendance alternating days with 50% of students attending Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday with alternating Fridays. Students will have online/extended activities on days not in school.

These two formats will include student health assessment before going to school, increased cleaning of surfaces, hand sanitizing in each classroom and common areas, assigned seats on buses and the lunchroom expanded to more areas as necessary. The district will limit shared supplies, will not allow lockers or cubbies to be used and book bags will be kept at seats. The will be two-way traffic in the hallways, breakfast will be grab-and-go and no large group activities will be permitted.

Remote learning format: All students will learn from home through online programming.

This format will have expectations like the classroom setting and daily attendance and participation is expected.

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The online learning program will provide instruction fully online supported by Urbana teachers.

For this program, the district will provide a Chromebook to each family enrolled, students must commit a half year to the program if choosing this option, not all district courses will be offered, and attendance will be taken daily for grades K-5 and based on progress checks in grades 6-12.

“None of the options are ideal” for the reopening plan, said Stephanie Chapman, who has four students in the district.

“I was actually really turned off of the entire plan from the get-go,” said Chapman, who has a kindergartner, fourth, seventh and ninth grader. “In my opinion, parents should have way more influence and control over the health decisions that will be directly affecting our children at the local schools.”

Chapman said she has yet to decide on her family’s decision for the fall.

“I have not decided how we will proceed this school year, because while my children miss their friends and being able to go to school, it sounds like a literal nightmare sending them with masks and all these rules,” she said.

All teachers and staff will wear face masks or shields in school buildings, except when working alone, Thiel said. All students in K-12 must wear masks on buses and while inside school buildings with specific mask breaks.

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Thiel said masks will be provided to students who do not have them and those that don’t wear one will not be able to be in the school.

Chapman said the mask guideline “sounds like literal torture.”

“Children wearing masks for more than eight hours a day, if you include bus rides, sounds like literal torture… How could I ever expect my little kindergartner to keep his on for the whole day? This will literally ruin his first year of school,” she said.

Other guidelines include hand sanitizer at all entry and gathering points, sanitizing wipes and sprays in classrooms, additional sanitizing of high-touch surfaces throughout the day, exterior doors held open for arrival and dismissal and interior doors open as much as possible to reduce contact, no snacks in classrooms, and it is recommended that students bring clear refillable water bottles as drinking fountains will be unavailable.

Urbana’s plan was made based off the decisions and guidelines from local and state health departments, parent and staff surveys and the limitations of district resources, according to Thiel.

“It is not possible to eliminate risk, only reduce it. Reducing risk will allow us to have students in school more in order to maximize learning,” Thiel said.

Ohio Public Health Advisory System – Urbana Learning Levels

Level 1 Public Emergency (yellow): Active exposure and spread – 100% capacity face-to-face learning

Level 2 Public Emergency (orange): Increased exposure and spread, exercise high degree of caution – 100% capacity face-to-face learning with increased safety protocols as needed at the local district level

Level 3 Public Emergency (red): Very high exposure and spread, limit activities as much as possible – Hybrid approach to learning including reduced capacity face-to-face learning and remote learning

Level 4 Public Emergency (purple): Severe exposure and spread, only leave home for supplies and services – Remote learning for all

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