COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Schools announced on Tuesday afternoon that it will postpone blended learning plans and remain in a remote learning model for most students until at least Jan. 15.
In announcing the decision, Columbus schools superintendent Talisa Dixon said, “As has been my common refrain in previous messages, the one certainty we can count on during this pandemic is great uncertainty.
“The large number of factors impacting our planning and decision-making change on an almost daily basis. As we learned last week, the most critical of those factors — our local health data on COVID-19 — is trending in the wrong direction.”
But some students will return to the classroom. Dixon said the district plans to bring in small, specific student groups who require in-person instruction as part of a blended learning model beginning in November.
These groups include career and technical education students at Columbus Downtown High School and Fort Hayes Career Center, and special education students with specific complex needs in all grades.
Some 50,000 students attend Columbus public schools, and the district employees more than 9,000 teachers and staff members. By picking Jan. 15, that means the next time the district will consider making a change is for the start of the second semester.
The announcement comes as the city teachers union said some buildings were not ready for students. John Coneglio, president of the Columbus Educators Association, said some teachers reported their workspaces were not cleaned.
“If they can’t meet the needs of adults, then they surely should delay any call back of students until they have it 100% correct and all the health and safety pieces are put in place,” Coneglio said. “Many of our teachers did walk into dirty rooms, they walked into rooms that hadn’t been touched.”
The union surveyed its teachers about their experiences.
In response to the union’s criticism, the district said it has spent $5 million to implement safety measures, which includes PPE for teachers, staff, and students; hand sanitizer in every building; air ventilation monitoring; and ionization machines to clean each building.
But now there will be at least another two months to prepare the buildings. And Dixon said the district will need to improve some aspects of its distance learning model.
“For these students and their families, it is critical that we enhance our remote supports in the coming months” Dixon said. “This will include a revamped food service model, increased tech support, leveraging our community partnerships and resources, and seeking continual engagement and feedback.”