Lakota is the latest Butler County school district to change its back-to-school plans in response to the continued coronavirus challenge.
The district’s school board voted 5-0 Friday to approve the 16,800-student school system’s previously released “Plan A” with some changes, including pushing back the first day of in-person classes and a one-week staggered start for students.
Lakota is now scheduled to start classes on Aug. 17 with students who have last names starting with A-L attending classes on that Monday and Wednesday only in the first week.
Students with names M-Z will attend classes on Tuesday and Thursday.
And only Lakota’s 2,000 employees will be in the district’s 22 schools on Friday, Aug. 21.
All students – with masks required on buses, in school and when not able to social distance starting on Aug. 17 - will attend in-person classes on Mon. Aug. 24. The district’s operations from that date will then be five days a week of in-person classes.
Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller cautioned during the virtual board meeting that the changing nature of the coronavirus threat and possible future orders from local and state health officials may change the school plans before they start or shortly thereafter.
“It’s in a state of flux. And it’s likely we will have to re-visit this issue again,” said Miller.
Board Vice President Kelly Casper praised Miller’s administrative team for developing the plan, which when it was unveiled had Lakota as one of the few districts in Ohio to require all students join teachers and staffers in wearing masks.
But Casper stressed “there is no perfect answer” at this stage of the pandemic as to how to open a public school system.
“Everyone wants to return to normal, but we aren’t going to get to normal for a while,” she said.
About 3,300 of Lakota’s school students have had their families sign them up for the district’s virtual learning option, which requires school parents to keep their children in the learn-from-home program for the first semester of the school year.
Lakota is the latest of area school districts to alter their previous back-to-school plans.
Earlier Friday the 10,000-student Hamilton Schools announced it was adopting a so-called “hybrid” scheduling plan, where students would attend in-person classes only two days a week with remote learning from home occurring during the rest of each school week.
The change, said Hamilton Superintendent Mike Holbrook, would enhance the school buildings’ safety procedures including the requirement that all students join teachers in wearing masks.
“The hybrid approach will be implemented for an indefinite period of time. The district needs the flexibility to convert to a complete in-person model or remote learning platform, depending on the changing conditions with the coronavirus,” Holbrook wrote in a statement sent to school families.
And earlier in the week the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools also adopted a hybrid school schedule.
Middletown Schools, however, is one of the few in the region where officials decided to begin the school year with all students in remote learning from home.
Holbrook said “we realize the best option for students is to be in our classrooms daily with teachers. Still, when looking at factors that include safety and the ability to comply with recommended safety protocols and social distancing, the decision was made to begin the year in a hybrid model.”
Hamilton also pushed back its start dates for students with names A-K to attend in-person on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25. Students with L-Z names will attend Aug. 27 and Aug. 28 during the district’s first week of school.
All area school officials – for both public and private schools – urge school families to go to their local district and school building websites to monitor the latest changes in back-to-school start dates and plans as schools re-open this month and through early September.
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