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South Point ready for Monday return to classes

District offering in-person, blended and remote options

SOUTH POINT — On Monday, the majority of Lawrence County students will begin their academic year and the South Point school district will be offering the most options for parents to choose for their children.

The district is resuming classes in person, remotely and will have a blended option of both.

The start of classes follows a week after Ironton and Ironton Catholic schools returned to in-person classes earlier this week. Remote options were available for students in Ironton.

The Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School, a public school that operates independently from the districts, returned to classes on Aug. 17, opting for remote learning for the first nine weeks.

South Point is unique for Lawrence County in being the only district offering a blended learning option, which superintendent Mark Christian said consists of two days a week of classes and three days of remote/virtual learning at home.

He said the popularity of each option depends on the age of the students.

“With the elementary schools, it’s 50/50 between in-person and at home,” he said, noting older students were more interested in being on campus. “And, at the high school, it’s 70-30 for in-person.”

Christian said the district has been planning and working all summer on safety measures to make social distancing possible.

All students and faculty will be required to wear face masks, as is ordered by the state of Ohio, while visitors will be kept to a minimum.

Christian said the school has provided students with masks featuring the South Point logo, while they have received additional masks from the state.

Hallways, restrooms, the cafeteria and other facilities have been marked for distancing, while building will be regularly sanitized, with a focus on high-touch surfaces. In classrooms, teachers’ desks have been fitted with three-sided Plexiglas shields.

Christian said a spray machine has been purchased for each building with a disinfecting mist, while the district has provided each student with a water bottle and no-touch refill stations have been installed, to take the place of shared water fountains.

He said 60 state-of-the-art thermometers have been purchased for the schools and temperatures of students will be checked twice a day. Hand sanitizer has been provided to every room.

To aid with virtual and blended learning, as well as for students who opt for in-person classes, he said the district has purchased a supply of new Chromebook laptops, enough to lease to every student from second grade up. He said, in addition to ones that already had on hand, he hopes they can expand the offering to the youngest students as well.

While many districts in Lawrence County have had issues with access to reliable broadband service for students at home, Christian said his district is in good shape, with 90-95 percent with service that can make virtual classes possible. He said the district has purchased several programs to assist with virtual learning.

When it comes to transportation, Christian said the rules call for no more than two students to a seat on a bus, but he said he believes lighter busloads will make it possible to keep them one to a seat.

“A lot parents said they will be driving them to school,” he said, and added that remote learning will also make the amount of students on the bus manageable for distancing.

After much preparation, Christian said they are ready for the first day of classes in the very changed atmosphere of the pandemic, hoping to provide a safe atmosphere to students and faculty.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’re a little apprehensive, but we’re eager to start school.”

In addition to South Point, Fairland, Symmes Valley, Rock Hill and Dawson-Bryant students will return to school on Monday. Those districts are planning five days a week of in-person classes, while remote options are offered.

Chesapeake students will return to a virtual environment, with students at home for the first nine weeks, until the situation is reassessed.