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Ohio school districts prepare for the possibility of students not returning to classrooms in the fall

While local school districts try to finish up the year and prepare for virtual or socially distant graduation ceremonies, they are also looking ahead to fall.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is asking districts to prepare for the possibility students will not return to full-time in-person classes.

“That makes it really difficult to make decisions in light of the fact that things may change 10 times in the next three months,” Fairfield City School District superintendent Billy Smith said Wednesday.

School districts across southwest Ohio face a unique challenge in trying to plan for August, when — in a normal year — students would be heading back to class.

“We don’t have a lot of answers,” Smith said. “We do anticipate that the start of the next school year will not be a traditional one.”

School districts hope for a traditional start to next school year, but they are also preparing for the possibility that remote learning will still play a role by the time classes resume.

“We know that along with businesses and our entire economy that we’ve been hit very, very hard,” Princeton City Schools superintendent Tom Burton said. “So being flexible in our approach is absolutely critical and that’s what we need to do.”

DeWine suggested a two-day blended learning plan in which students are split up into two groups. Each group would have two days of in-person classes each week, but on separate days from each other with remote learning the other three days a week.

“So, the moving parts would include, 'What about transportation?'” Burton said. “'What about scheduling? How many kids would be in a classroom? How many kids would be online while others in person?'”

Burton and Smith both acknowledged a blended learning plan could be difficult for working parents to handle. In the end, however, both superintendents said student safety is the top priority and they will follow the state’s guidance and recommendations.

“It’s difficult to get too deep into the planning process when you don’t have any parameters,” Smith said.

Lakota School District released this statement regarding its plans for the fall:

"While we traditionally begin planning for the new school year in January, our plans now include re-imagining what school might look as a result of COVID-19. Several weeks ago, district leaders began talking about several different scenarios for the fall so that we are prepared for the directives we will eventually receive from the State. While we certainly hope that August will bring a traditional start to the new year, we know that it is a very real possibility that remote learning will be a part of it in some capacity."

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