Columbus City Schools will start bringing students back into the classroom, at least part-time, on October 19 – slightly earlier than previously planned.
The district has kept all K-12 students learning remotely for the start of the semester, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of us have been looking forward to the day when our students and our employees could safely return to the classroom as part of our blended learning model,” superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon said in a statement. “Today, I’m pleased to announce the dates for teachers and staff to return to our buildings to prepare for our students’ phased-in arrival based on grade level. I cannot wait to see our students’ faces – with masks on, of course – and to see them engaged in their classroom setting once again.”
Under a new hybrid model, most Columbus students will attend in-person classes two days a week, and learn online from home the other three. Face masks will be required for everyone in school buildings.
The majority of high school students will remain completely online, even after the end of the first quarter. Meanwhile, lower grades will start returning in phases:
- October 19: Pre-K through 3rd grade, and Career and Technical Education students
- October 26: 4th and 5th grade
- November 2: 6th, 7th and 8th grade
The district's remote-learning plan originally had all grades learning from home until at least October 27. But since that was announced in July, Franklin County has dropped from a "red" level three public health emergency to an "orange" level two under Ohio's Public Health Advisory System. So far, just one case of COVID-19 has been reported among Columbus City Schools staff, and none among students.
Dr. Mysheika Roberts, commissioner of Columbus Public Health, said last month that the district could resume in-person learning with the proper safety protocols.
“By all of us doing our part, we can be back in the classroom for in-person learning,” Dixon said. “Please be sure to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands regularly.”
Dixon says the district will begin providing updates about schedules, health and safety protocols, and more information starting he week of October 5. Nurses will return to buildings on September 28, while teachers will return by October 14.
Dixon's announcement did not sit well, however, with the Columbus Education Association, which represents many of the district's teachers. Over the summer, the union strongly advocated for classes to go entirely online, calling the pandemic a "life and death situation," and says it plans to continue abiding by the remote learning agreement ending October 27.
"We are disappointed, but not surprised, that once again Dr. Dixon has publicly announced a 'plan' without first reaching an agreement on its terms with your Union," the union said in a statement late Tuesday. "Given the nature of the plan, an agreement with CEA is not optional – it is required by the law."
Other Central Ohio districts, such as Hilliard City Schools, are already using a hybrid learning schedule.