Oakwood defends return to school; parents urge caution in ‘risky time'

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

OAKWOOD – Concerned about COVID-19, some parents are urging the Oakwood’s board of education to reconsider starting the school year with face-to-face instruction.

The board president Tuesday did not back away from the decision to offer in-person classes, but also did not rule out more future “off-site” learning.

Parents’ comments were made Monday night, when the school board approved a calendar that includes resuming in-person classes Aug. 24. The vote came on the same day, according to the district, that – for the first time - an Oakwood athlete test positive for the coronavirus.

Oakwood is offering options for both in-person and online classes developed and delivered by SchoolsPLP, according to its website. Students are receiving face-to-face instruction on half-day morning and afternoon schedules, according to the district.

It would be the first time Oakwood students returned to that type of class since March, when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine shut down schools due to the coronavirus.

A handful of parents told the board Oakwood’s decision to face-to-face instruction comes at a time when Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County has recommended schools begin the year remotely.

But board President Todd Duwel Tuesday in a statement to the Dayton Daily News said “this situation is fluid and both state and federal education officials have urged local districts to be flexible and nimble” to changing circumstances.

“At this time, there is general agreement it is possible to safely provide face-to-face instruction for families who select that option,” he said.

One parent called the face-to-face option “physically dangerous for our children” while another used milder language.

“The last five months have been a challenge for pretty much everyone I know on one front or another,” said Heather Tuttle, who has an Oakwood High School student. “It’s a risky time and we all have to rely on each other to be safe and follow public health guidelines.”

Tuttle said data for the COVID-19 case rate for Aug. 14 in the 45419 ZIP code was 443.8 per 100,000, “well above the CDC’s recommendation for return to school.”

Parents pointed to decisions by neighboring school districts like Dayton and Kettering opting to begin the year with all remote learning.

On Tuesday, the district announced an Oakwood Junior High girls’ volleyball team member a day earlier tested positive for COVID-19.

The student was last at practice Aug. 13 and was notified of the positive test result Monday, the district said.

The district worked with PHDMC and members of the girls’ 8th grade and 7th grade volleyball teams and coaches who the individual came in “close contact” with were notified and will self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms for 14 days, according to the district.

Regarding opposition to in-person instruction, Duwel there has been concern about students’ time away from an academic atmosphere.

“From social and emotional, health and academic standpoints, there is a strong belief on the part of many the children of our community need to reconnect with all of the positives of an in-school setting,” according to the statement.

“Even if it becomes necessary to go off-site in two weeks or a month due to the spread of the virus, there is general consensus having our students in the buildings, connecting with their teachers and positive peer support will facilitate learning for the rest of the year, even if it ultimately must be delivered remotely,” he added.

Earlier this month, a letter written by Oakwood Teachers Association President Jay Lane expressed concern for student and staff safety as in-person classes resume.

“We believe if people in Oakwood follow the public health recommendations, we will be able return to face-to-face instruction sooner, and stay face-to-face longer, for all of our students on a daily basis,” Lane’s letter stated.

Back To School

Let the Dayton Daily News be your guide to the new school year and all of the challenges districts face in this coronavirus pandemic. Visit daytondailynews.com/back-to-school to see your school’s plans and other stories related to the new school year.

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