When 10,000 students return to Hamilton Schools next month, few things will be as they once were due to the coronavirus.
Classroom start and dismissals will be changed to lessen crowding inside the city schools.
Drinking fountains will be closed and cafeteria servings with no more open-air ale carte menu items will be limited as will seating for lunch as social distancing will be strictly enforced.
Students and teachers will be required to wear masks.
And city school officials recently released another in a series of communications to school families and employees about its still-changing back-to-school plans.
Hamilton school officials, likes some other Butler County school systems, are rolling out their new school year plans in stages.
Talawanda Schools will also require all students wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible.
MORE: Mask rules for Lakota school reopening draw both praise, criticism
Butler County school officials are stressing all plans remain largely tentative as the ever-changing coronavirus landscape keeps strategies to deal with the potentially dangerous virus in flux.
Monday, according to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the county is one of only 12 among Ohio’s 88 counties to currently be labeled a Level 3 category due to its local spike in Covid-19 positive tests.
Level 3 counties are mandated mask-required areas but that decision will go back to local school districts if a county sees a drop into the safer Level 1 or Level 2 categories, according to state guidelines.
Hamilton school officials said though its impossible to project what health conditions will be like next month when classes are scheduled to open, they must plan for all scenarios.
“There may be differences in classrooms, schools buildings, and building operations with certain buildings and we ask that our parents and students realize the need for flexibility as we navigate through these unusual times,” said Joni Copas, spokeswoman for the district.
Originally, Hamilton Schools were to open Aug. 11 but pushed back that date to Aug. 19 due to the coronavirus and the systemic changes it forced on the school system’s plans.
“We have slightly adjusted the school calendar to allow additional time for our staff to participate in some professional development that is necessary for a smooth and seamless school restart. This also allows additional days to stagger our (parent) Open House Nights to prevent large gatherings in our buildings,” said Copas.
Talawanda’s more than 3,000 students will also see a later start to their school year, as officials there just approved opening classes on Aug. 24 rather than Aug. 19 to give teachers and staffers more time to prepare for the many changes coming to schools.
“Our school board did vote to make masks mandatory in our schools - outside when social distancing cannot be achieved,” said Talawanda Spokeswoman Holli Morrish.
Morrish said the action, which was unanimously approved by the school board, was in part prompted by “Gov. DeWine’s recent announcement regarding masks and cases in Butler and surrounding counties,” she said in reference to adjacent Hamilton County also being labeled as Level 3.
Regardless of how the coronavirus landscape changes in the coming weeks, safety remains paramount for Hamilton Schools, said Copas.
“The safety of our students and staff is the highest priority as the district prepares for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. We have been following the state and local mandates and guidelines and have been working closely with the City of Hamilton Health Department to develop general principles that must be followed as we move forward for this school year,” she said.
For more detailed information regarding local schools’ plans for the new school year go to your school district website.