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Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education approves blended back-to-school plan

Students back in classrooms 2-3 days per week
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 23:38:36-04

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education approved a back-to-school plan Monday that includes both remote and in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.

Board members selected the first blended option, which will bring students back to classrooms alternating two or three days per week and have students "attend" school remotely on the other days.

While in school, students and teachers would follow CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines, spacing out six feet apart. Superintendent Laura Mitchell said at a press conference Monday evening that the Cincinnati Health Department has already donated thousands of masks for children and adults, and CPS is ordering thousands more ahead of the upcoming school year.

School leaders believe the plan will carry a "medium safety risk" for students and teachers with a "medium" impact on students' social, emotional and academic lives.

But parents and guardians concerned about their child’s health in an in-person learning environment can enroll their child in the Cincinnati Digital Academy, a full-time K-12 online learning option.

“We will also be working with our parents to identify childcare that many of our families may need as a result of students being in school two or three days a week over the course of the school year,” Mitchell said.

CPS, in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, is looking at “food kiosks” for mealtime so students do not gather in large groups in one cafeteria during lunches. CPS will also continue its food hub program, which provides students with two breakfasts and two lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 23 school locations, through the rest of summer.

For transportation, Mitchell said the system is looking at potential temperature checks and masks for students before they can board buses this year. Details on that plan are still being finalized, Mitchell said.

CPS also has contingency plans to transition back to remote learning for one school, multiple schools or the entire district if necessary, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said CPS is working on a plan with Cincinnati Bell to bring internet to over 11,000 CPS families who don't have WiFi access. By Sept. 4, every student grades 2-12 will have access to a device.

“We’re starting a proof-of-concept with five schools in which Cincinnati Bell has come to us and offered to provide WiFi for an entire year," she said.

She said community partners and businesses are chipping in to cover the $1.9 million cost to bring WiFi to those families.

“Last Friday a business called me and said, 'Laura, we pledge $50,000 to cover WiFi. That’ll cover 250 of your kids," she said.

The approved plan, the least expensive out of the five proposed options, will cost Cincinnati Public Schools an additional $23 million over the course of the school year.

Four of the proposed plans involve blended learning, with up to four days of in-person instruction per week and the remainder online. Only one would have brought students to physical classrooms all five days of the
academic week. Additionally, some of the in-person options would have involved ensuring a CDC-recommended six feet of distance between each student at all times. Others would cut that in half to three feet.

Board members heard public comment before voting to approve the plan on Monday, including teachers looking for stability in schedule for students.

“I’d like to see something more stable," said teacher Deborah Holloway. "This off-again and on-again remote, I think, can be confusing to the kids and the parents, especially if they’re trying to work.”

Parents also voiced concerns about social distance guidelines during the meeting.

“The three-feet distance feels like business as usual,” said parent Jeff Hammond. “It feels like that except for some masks and cleaning. The six-foot option feels like the middle ground that works to protect opportunities in both academics and health and safety.”

Watch a replay of the CPS press briefing detailing the fall plan in the player below: