MASON, Ohio — Mason City School parents will be able to choose to send their children back to in-person classrooms or to continue online learning from home during the upcoming school year.
“This pandemic just reiterates how important it is to be agile,” said Mason City Schools public information officer Tracey Carson.
Carson said the district worked with the Warren County Health Department to come up with new safety procedures for students who do return to buildings in the fall. The district also got feedback from students, staff, families and over 40 focus groups that included health care professionals and business leaders.
Some of the changes include requiring students who ride the bus to wear masks and modifying classrooms to keep kids three feet apart. Classes will be held outside wherever possible, and physical education lunch periods will be added to help avoid large gatherings. There will also be new cleaning standards in place for all district buildings.
“So it isn’t school as normal, but it is a way to start to have our families have the opportunity to have their students back in school with their teachers,”Carson said.
Carson also said the the plans for the '20-'21 school year are based on the information that the district has right now. They could change in the future.
“We recognize that there are still many unknowns about COVID-19, and what the environment will look like 10 weeks from now,” she wrote in a district-wide email to parents Wednesday.
The district is prepared to shift completely to an online learning environment for the next school year if another region or state-wide shutdown goes into effect.
“Our teachers did an incredible job in the spring,” Carson said. “We know that they’d be able to rise to that challenge again.”
However, the district said it doesn’t think going completely online again will be necessary and looks forward to welcoming students back inside the buildings again in the fall.
“There’s never a replacement for the relationship and the magic that happens when teachers are able to engage with their students,” Carson said.
In the parent email, the district said it also considered a model for returning to school that included operating at 50% capacity. Ultimately, it ran into logistical barriers that “compromised Mason quality.”
If there are parents who are unable or uncomfortable with sending their kids back to school, Mason City Schools is also implementing an option for remote learning for the upcoming school year.
“We will use a curriculum and platform designed by an outside company that specializes in online learning,” the parent email reads in part. “While this experience will meet the same Ohio standards as our Mason City Schools curriculum, it will not necessarily mirror the same pacing or activities that are delivered in brick and mortar school.”
Mason City Schools has asked parents to fill out a survey to provide feedback about which option they are planning on taking in the fall. So far, the district says about 80% of families who have responded are opting for in-person learning.