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Dayton’s school board on Saturday unanimously approved a slowly phased-in plan for students to return to school buildings that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A small number of Dayton Public Schools high school students in certain career-tech and arts classes would begin limited in-person work starting this Thursday. If that goes well, a second group, including English as a second language students, more career tech students, and special education students in self-contained classrooms, would return Oct. 15.
Then starting Nov. 9, the vast majority of students would be on a hybrid plan where they attend school in-person two days per week and continue working remotely the other days. The district will still offer a fully remote option for families who don’t want to return in person, but those families would have to commit to that model for the rest of the semester by Oct. 23.
“I just really believe we need to starting seeing our kids face-to-face,” Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli told the school board on Saturday. “We would reimplement all of the original safety plans — the temperatures being taken, the symptom checks, the social distancing, the masks.”
DPS began fully online classes Sept. 8. Lolli said many details of the return are still being worked out. One significant issue is creating a bus routing plan that can handle different DPS students on different days while still transporting charter and private school students, some of whom attend school five days a week.
School board President Mohamed Al-Hamdani said that could be a logistical nightmare that could also affect school start and end times.
Another big issue is how the mix of in-person and remote teaching will work. Those students who choose to attend in-person will be split into two groups — one group will attend in-person Monday-Tuesday and the other group will be in-person Thursday-Friday. All students will have a half day of online instruction on Wednesday while buildings are cleaned and while teachers use the other half of that day for planning.
Lolli said a big question is what students will be doing on the two days when they’re not in-person. DPS is looking into classroom camera options, which would allow students to see live lessons on their at-home days.
If that doesn’t happen, Lolli said teachers likely would teach the same lessons to one group Monday-Tuesday, then to the other group Thursday-Friday. The students would then use their two at-home days to do self-directed homework, intervention via district computer software, and project-based learning.
“That approach is not ideal, but it’s what a lot of schools are doing,” Lolli said.
Lolli said the 241 DPS staffers who were laid off or furloughed in early September will also be hired back on a staggered basis depending on when their work resumes in-person. She said all 241 would be back by a few days before the Nov. 9 hybrid restart date for the majority of students.
In case of positive COVID tests by students or school staff, Lolli said the district would work with the health department on whether individual students, or a classroom, or a whole school would have to quarantine.
The school board on Saturday approved Lolli’s request to waive formal bidding on personal protective equipment that may be needed quickly for a return to in-person school. DPS still has some federal CARES Act money to pay for it.
"We already have the gloves, the sanitizer, the cleaning supplies, the masks, the shields, all of those things. But as we come back, we want to make sure we have an open (purchase order) so we can purchase extra things, one of those being plexiglass.
Lolli said plexiglass will be installed behind bus drivers, may be used to divide spaces at cafeteria tables and is being considered a variety of ways in classrooms, including around student desks and in front of teachers.