Lebanon schools say in-person classes are full, late sign-ups will learn online

Lebanon City Schools announced Tuesday that the district has reached capacity for in-person classes, and any students enrolling Wednesday or later will be placed in the district’s online program for the first semester.

Like most local schools, Lebanon is offering both traditional in-person classes as well as an online option this fall as students and staff return five months after the state’s coronavirus-related shutdown.

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“At the close of business today, our student enrollment numbers for in-class instruction will be at capacity to accommodate safe spacing within our classrooms and other areas,” a statement from Superintendent Todd Yohey said Tuesday. “We understand that (online) placement will create a burden for working families. However, we cannot compromise the safety of our students and staff by overcrowding our classrooms and school buildings.”

Lebanon schools had asked families to fill out a preference form by July 10, stating whether they wanted their children to do in-school or online education. Yohey said of those students signed up so far, about 90% requested the in-school option.

Local schools are at varying stages of planning for August reopening. Centerville schools has not discussed building capacity, but just pushed back their first day of classes to Aug. 24 and “will be sending more information out to our staff members and families this week,” according to spokeswoman Sarah Swan.

Kettering schools will release their full reopening plan Friday, according to spokeswoman Kari Basson, but she added that the choice between in-classroom and online learning “will be up to the family, parent or guardian.”

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Northmont schools said their full plan will come out Wednesday.

“Northmont will not be limiting the number of students who can choose face-to-face learning at this time,” spokeswoman Jenny Wood said. “We are confident that based on the numbers, we will be able to accommodate all families’ educational choices.”

Yohey said Lebanon set class size limits of 22-25 students for this year after some classes had as many as 30 students last year. But having even 25 students can make it difficult to observe social distancing in a 700- to 900-square-foot classroom that also includes a teacher, supplies, cabinets, walking space and more.

He said the district made the decision to cap in-person learning, “based on our parent enrollment data, current new registrations, teachers unable to return due to health issues, the use of nontraditional spaces as classrooms, and a class size limit.”

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Lebanon’s plan says 20 teachers who are unable to return to classrooms due to health issues will staff the online alternatives, Yohey added.

Lebanon students doing their education online will use the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) platform and curriculum. Students will have access to core courses in English, math, science, and social studies, plus limited access to “special” courses (K-6) and electives (7-12), Students in grades 7-12 will not have access to their full schedule as planned this past spring.

Yohey said Lebanon teachers will serve as online facilitators, grade the assignments, and interact with students, providing instruction and intervention as needed. The timing of the online school day is flexible.

“They can perform the work once parents are at home, but that is a decision for the family to make. Let’s all hope that by the start of the second semester, we can safely bring students back to school.” Superintendent Todd Yohey added.