Back to School: As schools reopen, plans may change again

MIAMI VALLEY — With some Miami Valley school districts moving students back to the classroom, educators say one word is key: flexibility.

They have been planning for months to begin the new school year, either physically or online.

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Either way, for many districts they have had to roll with the punches as the situation changes, sometimes with little or no notice. Case in point, the weekend announcement from the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine that face shields will not be allowed for teachers and staff. Only face masks work well enough to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“That (announcement) kind of snuck out on Saturday morning. And it kind of disrupted our facial covering policies. So everybody is re-figuring that out for those folks that are going back in person,” said Shannon Cox, superintendent, Montgomery County Educational Service Center. The ESC works with every school district in the county.

Cox said when the pandemic first hit in mid-March, most districts across the state were entirely focused on getting the system through the remainder of the school year. When that finished in June, they set their sights on planning for the fall. Many districts developed multiple plans, expecting to use one of them in late August.

As it turns out, they are using all of the plans at the same time.

Beavercreek City Schools Superintendent Paul Otten said district staff learned a lot about online learning through March, April and May. They now plan to use that knowledge to provide instruction to students who have elected to attend school in virtual classrooms and take online instruction.

More than half of the district, though, will be returning to the physical classroom. According to Otten, there could be additional changes parents should be aware of and ready to respond.

“For those students who are traditional, returning in person, right now we are prepared to go five days a week. But we also know that if our county would move to red, level-three risk, our district would move to a hybrid model or blended model,” Otten said. Should Greene County COVID-19 cases dramatically increase and go to level four on the state risk scale, Beavercreek plans on going to an all online system five days a week.

Otten is urging parents to be prepared for additional changes if they are necessary. He adds, they have done their best to keep kids safe and at the same time offer the best options available.

“We believe our plan is flexible. We believe it is responsive to the pandemic. It’s not a perfect plan for any one family,” Otten said.