Dayton Public Schools is the latest district to announce that they will offer full in-person classes starting in August, with a separate online option for families that request it.
Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said school will start on Aug. 17, a week later than originally planned, to give the district time to train staff on health and safety guidelines.
Families will have until Aug. 1 to notify DPS officials that their students prefer the online school option for 2020-21. Whichever choice they make — online or in-person — students will be required to stick with that approach for the entire school year unless a change in family circumstance warrants a switch.
“The key factor in making this decision was the fact that we have to have our kids back in school,” Lolli said. “I had 600 of my students not showing up online (at all this spring) and depending on the school, I was anywhere between 35% and 76% of students showing up for the online lessons. I can’t have that kind of ratio of learning occurring in the district.”
DPS said they would roll out full details of the district’s safety protocols for reopening schools next week, but Lolli did explain a few expected procedures.
One of the biggest challenges to reopening schools has been the recommendation from health officials to maintain six-foot social distancing. If students are spread that far apart, most classrooms are not physically large enough to fit 20-plus students as they normally would.
Lolli said DPS will maintain a distancing requirement of only two feet between students in their classrooms, but said students will be required to wear face coverings. The district is ordering a type of clear face shield for each student that goes on like a pair of glasses and can fit over eyeglasses.
The face shields would be worn at school each day, would be sanitized each day, and would be kept there, with students wearing cloth masks at arrival, dismissal and on buses.
Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health, Dayton & Montgomery County, said he couldn’t comment on DPS’ approach without seeing full details from the school district, or from the pending state guidance to schools.
DPS teachers union President David Romick said he’s had discussions with Lolli about reopening procedures, but added that many questions remain. Those include the availability of enough protective equipment, the viability of the social distancing approach and exact procedures when someone does get sick, among other issues.
Lolli said the district has already spent $5.5 million in federal funds to purchase supplies, including masks, face shields, computers and wifi hotspots.
She said students who use district buses will ride two-to-a-seat wearing masks, and their temperatures will be checked as they arrive at school, with the potential to quarantine an entire busload of students if needed. If an outbreak occurs, it would be handled on a school-by-school basis, with the potential of moving an entire school to online learning for two weeks or a month.
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