Wilmington City Schools to start off with blended learning

Hybrid plan separates students into two groups

By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com

WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Schools (WCS) will operate under a hybrid schedule through at least Labor Day.

With the hybrid schedule, students will attend school physically two days per week and learn remotely at home the other three days.

The Wilmington school board met Thursday and approved a “Reset and Restart School Plan” for the approaching academic year. Students will be required to wear face coverings while riding a school bus, and face masks will be highly recommended for students elsewhere when six feet of social distancing is not practical.

Furthermore, if the state of Ohio’s warning system puts Clinton County at an Alert Level 3 (red level), students will be required to wear face coverings in all school settings.

The student start date is being moved from Aug. 19 to Aug. 24 in order to provide staff five days of training in establishing safety measures, delivering instruction in multiple situations, and preparing the learning environment.

The target date for district officials to reassess the situation is after Labor Day, which is Sept. 7.

“Our hope is that if there’s decreasing [community] spread, if we’re doing well within our own school environment, and we can move to all-students-in for the full week, we will do that,” said WCS Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart. “And from that point on [post-Labor Day], we’re going to be assessing that from week to week.”

The ultimate goal is to get students back into the school buildings full-time, she added.

In the start-up hybrid schedule, 50 percent of students will attend school in person on Mondays and Thursdays, and the remaining 50 percent will attend school in person on Tuesdays and Fridays. Officials are looking at Wednesdays to be remote learning for all.

The exception to this 50-50 format are students with special needs who have academic goals on their IEP (Individualized Education Program) plan. They will be at school 4½ days a week, with Wednesday mornings as the half-day.

The Reset & Restart measure was approved unanimously by the school board and lists three reasons for going with a start-up hybrid schedule. First, it allows students and staff to learn and practice new safety guidelines and protocols in smaller groups.

Second, the 50-50 schedule offers students the physical space to maintain the recommended social distancing of six feet in the majority of the educational settings. And third, the schedule’s dual approach will allow the district to help respond to an increase or decrease of a community spread of the virus, and help respond to staffing shortages due to illness and quarantine.

In addition to this in-person hybrid option, there will be a full-time WCS Virtual Education Option provided at no cost to parents, thanks to the CARES Act.

With this second option, the K-through-12 student will be provided with a login to a quality educational company (a third party) that the district will partner with to provide this online option, according to WCS.

WCS educators will support and monitor students in this option which, to be clear, involves learning full-time from home. Technology assistance can be provided to families with no devices or access.

July 28 is the deadline to enroll for this WCS Virtual Education Option.

In response to a question from school board President Steve Murphy, WCS Director of Business Operations Curt Bone said the expectation is that student face coverings for riding the bus are to be supplied by the children’s family, but if a student doesn’t have a mask, WCS will provide one.

The superintendent followed up by saying the district has ordered a large quantity of adult and child disposable masks.

McCarty-Stewart added that one of the things WCS will ask of the community is for those residents who like to sew — or people who want to make donations — to provide various kinds of masks to allow options for students who may forget their mask or for finding the best, most comfortable masks for them.

She wanted to express her deep appreciation for the school community and the staff who have worked really hard this summer putting together the plans, as well as working cooperatively with the Board of Education.

“Everybody has the best interests of our students and staff and of this community as a priority in how we plan and how we move forward,” McCarty-Stewart said.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Hybrid plan separates students into two groups

By Gary Huffenberger