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Columbiana schools playing waiting game

COLUMBIANA — While the district still has time to announce its strategy for the 2020-21 school year, Superintendent Don Mook admitted at Tuesday’s school board meeting that they had hoped to hear more concrete guidelines delivered by Gov. Mike DeWine by now. So, while the state is still making some decisions regarding what school will look like, Mook and his team have narrowed down the possibilities to three options.

Similar to what other districts are planning, the three options include normal in-person learning, completely remote learning or blended learning, which combines components of in-person and remote learning. Mook said that while they have all of their information, it’s just a matter of receiving the guidelines from the governor and implementing them.

“I know our parents are chomping at the bits to hear what’s going on, but the last thing we want to do is put out information and change it multiple times before the start of school,” Mook said. “Quite frankly, the framework could change dependent on the guidelines from the state.”

Mook said that a re-entry committee was put together and has met about five times, discussing the details of next year’s return. The committee has focused on the instructional piece of the pie, preparing for possible in-person, remote or blended curriculum and lesson plans.

The blended system has been defined already by the Ohio Department of Education, as blended schools already exist. Remote learning is governed by House Bill 164 and provides asynchronous and synchronous learning, which means students don’t necessarily need to be online during school hours. Mook said that could cut down on issues with households that need to share a network or devices with multiple students.

While much remains unclear, Mook said it looks like it will be a local decision. While it is a positive that the district will be able to craft a solution that specifically addresses the concerns of Columbiana families, the downside is that the district will be responsible for any COVID-19 issues.

“We want to be able to provide the necessary education to each family individually,” Mook said. “If I have a medically fragile situation where a student can’t afford to bring the virus back and forth to a grandparent perhaps, I want them to have an option to receive their education remotely.”

In a survey done by the district, over 60 percent of the parents who participated in the survey want school as normal for the 2020-21 school year. Mook said that a lot of working parents rely on the schools not only from an educational standpoint but from a child care standpoint as well.

In the county, three school-aged children have tested positive for the virus. Mook said that it is unlikely that children pass on the virus if they are asymptomatic, so they should be able to address those problems with daily health assessments, like taking temperatures. Requiring faculty to wear face coverings is also a possible option. He said they are hopeful that as the science continues to provide more answers, it will give them a better idea of the safety of in-person learning.

The board still needs to decide whether decisions will be made building-by-building or district-wide. Mook said that no matter what route they go with, they will attempt to address the needs of each family and the staff.

“We also have to take into consideration our staff’s welfare,” Mook said. “We’re going to have to make the decision based on the needs all away around.

slendak@mojonews.com

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