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Walnut Hills HS parents asking Cincinnati Public Schools to hold off blended learning plan

Walnut Hills High School
Posted at 4:22 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 19:31:03-05

CINCINNATI — As Cincinnati Public Schools prepares to begin the process of phasing students back into their classrooms part time, Walnut Hills High School parent Kristen Heinlen said it's not something she thinks can be done while also keeping her three children safe.

She's mostly worried about the school's size, she said.

"Even if they cut the amount of kids down in the school to 1,500 versus 3,000, there is still going to be a foot apart from each other in the hallways. It's so crowded as it is," she told WCPO.

She wasn't alone in thinking the school, home to students in grades seven through 12, might be too crowded to return to a blended learning model, in which students learn in the classroom two days a week and work remotely the other three days. Earlier in the school year, as other district schools switched from fully remote to blended, Walnut Hills remained virtual due to the school's population.

Vanessa Scocchera, another Walnut Hills parent, wants to know what's the difference now?

"We are in a purple alert," she said, referring to Hamilton County's recent purple designation on Ohio's COVID-19 transmission map. "I don't know why in the world they want to open the school."

According to the district's return schedule, Walnut Hills High School students will commence time in the classrooms Feb. 15. The district's decision came with support and opposition

Heinlen said she also worries about her children's ability to keep up with their curriculum in a blended model, in which students have less structure and have to keep up with material independently on their distance learning days.

"If they go hybrid, they will be in school the two days, but the two days that they are out of school they are expected to learn on their own," she said. "They will have to learn the material all by themselves, which is absolutely impossible for a lot of these kids to do."

Both parents have signed a petition circulating that requests that school remain fully remote until all staff can receive the vaccine, and even then, they said they still would have their reservations.

"What about the 3,000 students that are not vaccinated that are being exposed and are bringing it home to their families?" Heinlen said.

In a statement to WCPO, district spokesperson Frances Russ wrote:

"Beginning the week of February 15, students in grades 4-6 and 9-12 will return to the A/B group blended learning schedule assigned in the fall. Walnut Hills High School will migrate out of distance learning and follow the A/B blended learning schedule and students will receive their A/B group assignments later this week. Families who want their children to remain in five-day distance learning, including families currently at Walnut Hills High School, may enroll in the Cincinnati Digital Academy."

During its Jan. 20 meeting, the CPS Board of Education voted against a motion to reconsider its previously approved plan to return to hybrid learning, adopted nine days earlier.

Melba Moore, director of the Cincinnati Health Department, said Monday her staff had received early its initial doses of vaccination slated for CPS staff, meaning the district can begin vaccinating its staff on Jan. 28, four days earlier than originally planned.