Schools’ reopening plans differ on masks, online school, more

The sign outside Dayton's Valerie Elementary in July 2020 tells students that school staff love them and miss them.
The sign outside Dayton's Valerie Elementary in July 2020 tells students that school staff love them and miss them.

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

K-12 schools release extremely detailed plans; parents face tough decisions

More than 20 local K-12 schools and districts have released formal reopening plans for this fall, and another dozen are expected this week, as families plan their kids’ return from the COVID-19 school closures.

There are some consistent themes in the plans — most offer both in-person and online school options, busing will continue in some form, and all schools are building robust cleaning and disinfecting plans.

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But there are differences from school-to-school as well — about when classes will start, whether students have to wear masks at all times, and whether they’ll go to school five days a week or two days. For students who will learn remotely, the online curriculum varies from school to school.

But even in detailed plans that are as long as 21 pages, nearly every school warns that everything could change if the COVID-19 outbreak suddenly gets better or worse, or if state or local health officials order changes.

“Please keep in mind that all plans are fluid and could change rapidly based on the spread of virus in our community,” Centerville school officials said in their plan. “We appreciate your flexibility and patience.”

In several local school districts, the board of education will vote this week on how to move forward. Brookville and Cedarville are scheduled to vote tonight, Bethel and Waynesville school officials hope to have announcements Wednesday, and the Fairborn and Troy school boards have scheduled votes for Thursday.

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Some school districts are tying their back-to-school approach to Ohio’s new Public Health Advisory System, which labels each county by the risk level of COVID-19 exposure and spread locally.

For example, the in-person part of Beavercreek Schools’ plan calls for traditional five-day-a-week school if the risk is at Level 1 (yellow) or Level 2 (orange) where it was Friday. But if it goes to Level 3 (red), the district would have in-person students attend only two days per week, supplemented by online learning.

A Level 4 (purple) designation would trigger closure of school buildings and full remote learning again.

Online or in-person?

The hardest decision some families have to make is whether to send their kids physically back to school or have them do online learning at home. Online school is a problem for some parents who have to be at work.

And there are health questions. The American Association of Pediatrics said the goal, when possible, should be “having students physically present in school,” adding that “children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.”

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The Centers for Disease Control, while acknowledging that children catch COVID-19 less, warned that “children can pass this virus onto others who have an increased risk of severe illness.”

Beyond that are educational questions. In Kettering’s plan, remote learners in grades K-5 “will be taught by a Kettering City Schools teacher utilizing Google Classroom.” But those in grades 6-12 will use a curriculum from an outside vendor (Apex Learning) and a Kettering teacher “will assist” those students.

In Lebanon, online students will use vendor Virtual Learning Academy’s curriculum. The district’s plan says beyond core courses, students will “have limited access to special area courses (K-6) and elective courses (7-12).”

Centerville is one of multiple Montgomery County districts using the SchoolsPLP curriculum for its full online option. District officials say it “will meet the same Ohio learning standards,” but may not have “the same pacing or activities” as regular in-person classes.

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Parents at some schools face looming deadlines to choose the online or in-person option. Northmont’s plan says that deadline was Monday for their families. Oakwood has a July 27 deadline, and Dayton Public’s deadline is Aug. 1. Miamisburg and Beavercreek says students choosing the online option must stick with it for a full semester barring special circumstances. Dayton asks students to commit one way or the other for a full school year.

While most schools are offering either fully in-person or fully online options, a few, including Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) and the Miami Valley Career Tech Center will not have five-day-a-week in-person school. Both schools will have half of their students in class Monday-Tuesday and the other half Thursday-Friday.

Mask policies

Face coverings have been one of the most divisive issues of the coronavirus outbreak, especially in school discussions. Opponents say young children will be unable to wear them effectively, and student-teacher communication will be hindered.

Supporters point to recent comments from CDC director Robert Redfield, who called face coverings “one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

DECA is one of a few local schools that will require all staff and students in grades K-12 to wear face coverings in school at all times except lunch.

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Oakwood’s plan says “Wearing face coverings is our No. 1 weapon to fight this virus and keep school open.” But the plan says students are only required to wear them “when social distancing protocol cannot be maintained.” Miamisburg also uses the “when physical distancing is not possible” language.

Huber Heights’ policy mentions a mask requirement in “common areas,” but also shows the divide on the mask issue.

“Although we believe it would be safest for students to also wear masks full time while in class, and highly recommend it, we recognize the pragmatic realities of enforcing this on a daily basis and the concerns raised by our community.”

Reopening plans, school by school

The Dayton Daily News this week asked more than 50 local schools to share their first day of class for students, plus their formal reopening plan, or where that plan stands.

*** 20 SCHOOLS/DISTRICTS SHARED FORMAL PLANS ***

Beavercreek — Aug.13-14 start; details: https://www.gocreek.org/apps/pages/SchoolYear20-21

Centerville — Aug. 24 start; details: https://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/back-to-school-2020

Covington — Aug. 25 start; details: https://www.covington.k12.oh.us/News/2020-reopening-plan#sthash.CNwVAuQQ.dpbs

Dayton Public — Aug. 17 start; details: https://www.dpsrestart.com/

Dayton Christian — Aug. 19 start; details: https://30lx324b9sdj3re6rq3raiif-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Return-to-Community-Plan-2020.2021-JT-edits-4-v-4.pdf

Dayton Early College Academy — Aug. 17 start; details: https://www.daytonearlycollege.org/covid-19/returnplan/faq

Franklin — Aug. 19 start; details: https://www.franklincityschools.com/media/documents/FCS%20Re-Opening%20Plan%20Parent%20Version.pdf

Huber Heights — Aug. 27 start; details: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OROXJVB2jDdJedy8BlWmF5DrIRwvWQ_onwSu4c_OcT4/edit#heading=h.i24ahbnveohe

Kettering — Aug. 17 start; details: https://www.ketteringschools.org/News/3992#sthash.VnHFZBPN.xgUqv87h.dpbs

Lebanon — Aug. 17 start; details: https://www.lebanonschools.org/departments/school-opening-plans-fall-2020-19/

Mad River — Sept. 8 start; details: https://www.madriverschools.org/cms/lib/OH01914812/Centricity/ModuleInstance/128/Mad%20River%20Local%20Schools%202020-21%20Reopening%20Plan%20-%20Parents%20and%20Community%20Members.pdf

Miamisburg — Aug. 17 start; https://miamisburgcityschools.org/

Miami Valley CTC — Aug. 13-14 start; details: http://www.mvctc.com/news/article/1634

Northmont — Aug. 18 start; details: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oYE89kTkzBheBNoUa2eIJSyRZl5l1BoIGMgPBm76Ejo/edit

Oakwood — Aug. 17 start; https://www.oakwoodschools.org/resources/oakwood-schools-reopen-plans

Piqua — Sept. 8 start; details: https://www.piqua.org/Downloads/PiquaOpeningPlanFinal7_16_20.pdf

Springboro — Aug. 26 start; details: http://www.springboro.org/COVID-19Resources.aspx

Tecumseh — Aug. 26 start; details: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SB73c4TC0wRBCclmqd9IT9iVL5mjamWp/view

Warren County Career Center — Aug. 17-18 start; details: https://conta.cc/2CdtBmL

Xenia — Aug. 19 start; details: http://www.xeniaschools.org/about_us/20-21_school_restart

********************

*** 10 SCHOOLS/DISTRICTS TOLD US WHERE THEY STAND ***

Bethel — School board to vote on reopening plan July 22

Brookville — Aug. 19 start; School board to vote on reopening plan July 20

Cedar Cliff — School board to vote on reopening plan July 20

Fairborn — Aug. 24 start; School board to vote on reopening plan July 23

Greene County Career Center — Meeting for board vote coming, but not yet scheduled

Tipp City — Aug. 31 start; School board to vote on reopening plan July 21 or 27

Troy — School board to vote on reopening plan July 23

Upper Valley Career Center — Aug. 20 start; Reopening plan expected first week of August

Waynesville — Partial release of plan coming July 22

Yellow Springs — Plan under review; release expected by July 24

********************

*** 23 SCHOOLS/DISTRICTS DID NOT RESPOND TO DDN REQUEST ***

Alter, Bellbrook, Bradford, Carlisle, Chaminade-Julienne, Carroll, Dayton Regional STEM, Eaton, Emerson Academy, Greeneview, Greenon, Jefferson Twp., Miami East, Milton-Union, New Lebanon, Newton, Northridge, North Dayton School of Discovery, Pathway School of Discovery, Trotwood-Madison, Valley View, Vandalia-Butler, West Carrollton

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