CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education is expected to discuss an update to its reopening plan in a meeting on Monday.
It's not yet clear whether the current plan will change, but parents of CPS students are watching the situation closely. The board will meet at 6:30 p.m.
At the time the agenda was posted Friday, Cincinnati Public Schools’ back-to-school plan involved separating most K-12 students into groups attending in-person classes part of the week and learning online for the remainder to reduce the change of contracting COVID-19. Students whose families are uncomfortable with an in-person return can choose to learn digitally instead.
Laura Pipitone, a parent of two CPS students, said she's considering the option to keep her children home at least for the start of the school year.
"You can’t expect a 5-year-old to follow those rules all day long and I just worry that that’s going to make for unsafe conditions for everybody," said Pipitone. "For staff and for students."
Other parents are hoping to tread carefully, but unclear plans and a lack of guidance ahead of the district's August 24 start date have parents on edge about the experience.
"It’s just a rumor mill hearing from different parents and teachers and not having any idea what it’s going to be," said Pipitone.
Marsha Thornton's two children also attend CPS, and now both have laptops provided by the district. She said she plans to send them back for in-person classes, but knows the district's current plan of a blended system could change in the coming weeks as uncertainty around the pandemic continues.
"No one intended or ever anticipated that we would have to educate 35,000 students in a pandemic," said Thornton.
The superintendent's performance leadership team will present an update to the plan at Monday's Board of Education meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Thornton says she's happy, so far, with how the administration has responded to the difficulties of attempting to safely reopen school during a pandemic, but she wants to be sure any changes to the district's plans are based on data.
"I don’t want to live in fear but I want to be smart and just make, again, fact-based decisions," said Thornton.
The district has received significant pushback from its teachers and other staff members, who have no choice but attend in-person through the entire year. Refusing to do so could cost them their jobs.
“I have no choice,” CPS employee Lexie Lopez-Mayo said at another meeting in mid-July. “I have to work. So that means that I’m either putting my life at risk or my children’s life at risk because you’re sending me back into the schools.”
Some teachers criticized the district’s hiring process for substitutes, of which officials expect to need many. They’ll be required to teach in person, too.