CINCINNATI — Students of Cincinnati Public Schools will return to a blended learning model starting Feb. 1, the district announced Saturday after a vote from the CPS school board.
The district is working on specific plans for the return but said it will begin with specialized classrooms and younger students.
The board agreed to continue to review in-person options for Walnut Hills High School, as well as when it can return all CPS students to full-time in-person learning later in the school year.
The vote comes just three days after Hamilton County appeared purple on the Ohio Department of Health’s color-coded COVID-19 risk map.
"I do feel the need to remind folks that we’re purple and things are worse than they’ve ever been and we have thrown every piece of criteria we have ever laid out out the window to have a discussion to speed up getting kids back," said Mike Moroski, CPS board of education member.
School board members differed on whether that was a factor that should stop the district from returning to classrooms as the semester continues.
"If you’re only looking at the color coding system from the Governor, that can paint you in a box. If you look at the number 40 that can paint you in a box," said Laura Mitchell, CPS superintendent, in reference to the school's previously stated goal of returning to classrooms only when COVID-19 cases were below 40 per 100,000 residents.
Staffing challenges related to the pandemic pushed CPS to transition to a distance-learning model in November. The district said additional staffing, shorter quarantine time for individuals and the roll-out of the vaccine to district staff will make the gradual return to in-person instruction possible.
In order for CPS staff to be included in Phase 1B of the vaccination roll-out, the district said it will sign the “Notice of Intent” commitment form required by the State of Ohio. The form indicates the district will return to a learning model that includes some in-person learning by March 1.
Parents of CPS students pleaded with the board to return to in-person education during Monday's virtual board meeting.
“Life is going on everywhere else,” parent Ashley Tolokonsky said. “I mean, people are at Target. People are at soccer tournaments, hockey practice. I mean, everybody’s doing everything except us.”