Schools prepare for Aug. 24 reopening

Published 5:43 pm Friday, July 24, 2020

Start moved back a week; districts begin releasing plans

Lawrence County’s public schools were originally scheduled to start classes on Aug. 19, but the first day of the academic year has been pushed back until Aug. 24, in order to allow schools to prepare for the changes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is to give staff more time for remote learning,” said Jeff Saunders, who is superintendent of the Lawrence County Educational Service Center, which oversees the districts.

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Over the past week, districts have started releasing details on what options for classes will exist for families when the academic year begins with the pandemic still ongoing.

“Everyone is making plans that will abide by state and local health guidelines,” Sanders said. “They’ll add to this and work with the governor and the administration to get kids back in school, where they need to be. And we want to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the state’s K-12 schools closed for an extended spring break in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began. That closure was gradually extended to the end of the 2019-20 school year.

The state released a set of guidelines earlier this month, advising things such as masks for students above third grade and giving recommendations on social distancing and situations like the bus and cafeteria environments. There were few mandated items, though faculty were required to wear masks or facial coverings.

The plans released so far by districts show how the school experience will differ for students this year.

Here is a look at some of the highlights outlined in the announcements:

Ironton City Schools released details of their reopening on Friday, stating that all students, grades K-12, will be required to wear masks or face shields in class and on district vehicles.

This requirement will also extend to all staff.

Daily health assessments will be conducted for students, while semester or year-long remote learning options will be available for students whose parents prefer they not attend in person.

Buildings will be sanitized regularly and kept free of clutter to allow deep cleaning. Kindergarten through fifth grades will eat lunch in classrooms, while grades 6-12 will be served in cafeterias and gyms to maintain social distancing.

Visitors will be kept to essential functions.

Rock Hill schools announced they will have in-person classes, but, under certain circumstances, remote learning can be requested. These classes would follow state guidelines and would involve digital curriculum, virtual office hours and recorded instruction.

All students and staff would be required to wear facial coverings. Lunch policies will follow the same as Ironton.

Rock Hill detailed bus policies, which would involve distancing and assigned seating for contact tracing. Social distancing would be maintained in the classrooms, while visitor and cleaning policies are similar to Ironton’s.

The district said they are replacing water fountains with bottle fillers to reduce contact opportunities.

Symmes Valley schools are offering parents two options — five-day, in-person learning, as well as remote learning.

Families enrolled in remote learning would be expected to meet expectations outlined by the district.

“Remote learning cannot fully replicate the experience found with in-school instruction, so we ask that you please consider this option very carefully,” the plan from the district read. “Once committed to the remote learning, families will have the option to return to in-school instruction at the beginning of each nine weeks grading period.”

Like the others, the district said they will work to maintain social distancing and will require masks for students and staff in the building and in classrooms.

The district is also working to create Wi-Fi hot spots to provide connectivity for students in the rural district, which has a low rate of high-speed broadband service available.

South Point school board president Josh Parker posted some details for the district, including the options of virtual and in-person learning for students.

School superintendent Mark Christian said this plan is still pending and changes could be made. He said officials will meet later this week to finalize things.

Chesapeake schools announced that they will offer parents the option of five days a week of in-person learning for students, as well as remote learning.

Students and staff will be required to wear facial coverings at school and on buses, while social distancing will be employed.

Breakfast will be served to all grades in the classroom, while kindergarten through fourth grades will be served lunch in the cafeteria and gym, fifth through eighth grades will be served in the cafeteria and other overflow locations and ninth through 12 will be served in the cafeteria.

For a comprehensive look at all polices, check the websites and Facebook pages of local school districts.