Columbus City Schools readying for in-person classes next week

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio’s biggest school district is gearing up to get students back in the classroom, but it won’t be everyone.

This is only for Columbus City Schools students in Kindergarten and up to 5th grade, but also students K-12 with special needs and those at the technical schools.

One of those schools, East Linden Elementary, is taking steps to stay safe and teach.

There are currently empty hallways and empty desks, but the school has put the work in to get students and teachers back safely.

“We’ve been preparing for this opportunity, next Monday, since last year, since we left pretty much,” said Principal Cheryl Jones talking about moving into blended learning.

She walked us through all the changes that’s being implemented at all of the primary schools for the first day of blended learning classes starting Monday, Feb. 1.

There are stickers marking six feet of social distance, dividers for each desk, and even ways to safely eat lunch.

“And it will give them hope besides just sitting there and, you know, at home, staring at a screen,” said Deborah Staples, a 20-year veteran kindergarten teacher who is ready to be back inside the classroom.

This will be a hybrid approach, two days in person and three days at home.

“They will work on asynchronous work,” Jones explained. “They will also have their specials during that time — they will have art, music, and PE on the days they are not in the school.”

Students in kindergarten through third grade will start in-person classes on Feb. 1, with fourth and fifth grade classes beginning the following week.

“They will be able to come to a place where they feel safe and they feel loved and they’re going to be educated,” Staples said.

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon and Mayor Andrew Ginther were also on the tour of the classrooms. Dixon said one reason why this wasn’t a district-wide return to the classroom was transportation.

“We were able to get one student per seat on our buses,” Dixon explained. “As we work through it, we will hopefully be able to provide some additional spaces for additional students.”

“We know that kids learn better, have better experiences if they have options to do some in-person learning and so getting back to a blended learning environment is absolutely critical,” Ginther added.

He’s supporting the district, saying it worked with all safety and health departments in planning its return.

“We did it as quickly but as safely as possible and I think that’s the response you’re getting from school districts across the community and across the state,” Ginther said.

Dixon also talked about older buildings and airflow through those classrooms.

“We’ve not deviated from our checks and balances on our buildings, so again, our buildings are safe,” Dixon said. “We checked for that air filtration systems, they’re all safe for our students to return.”

She added that she’s hopeful secondary students will soon follow.

“Be mindful that we are looking at ways to bring you back, too, and thank you to our parents and stakeholders for working with us,” Dixon said. “We are ready to bring our kids back next week.”

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