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With a re-open date still unknown, Cincinnati Public Schools works to muddle through

Cincinnati Public Schools
Posted at 10:57 PM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 23:21:42-04

CINCINNATI — As school leaders and parents alike await more information from Governor Mike DeWine on when schools may be allowed to re-open, Cincinnati Public Schools have been working hard to plan for either possible outcome: a re-open date by the end of this school year, or a full closure until the fall.

School board members met Saturday in a virtual meeting to determine planning for the rest of the year, and to analyze how remote learning has fared in the district so far.

So far, the district is working to schedule virtual proms and online graduations, while still planning for the possibility that those events could be held in person.

The plan for grades has changed too, with students' progress for the fourth quarter of school ranked simply "pass" or "incomplete." Any students receiving an "incomplete" status won't see a hit to their overall G.P.A.; teachers will help them make up that coursework over the summer, or in the next school year.

CPS said they will hold a Facebook Live event for parents to ask questions about all of that in the near future.

"We're going to have to step out of a box and get as creative as we can," said Carolyn Jones, president of the Cincinnati Board of Education. "That may be the roles of our staff changing. Environments may change. Innovation is key."

Despite all these changes and adaptations the school district has made to reach and help students succeed, the board of education also discussed the reality of virtual classrooms during Saturday's meeting, with some school officials struggling to get in touch with some students.

Last week, school officials reported they couldn't reach more than 5,000 of the district's approximately 36,000 students.

"That's way too high," said Jones. "We have to do whatever's necessary to reach those students to make sure they're getting their academic and socio-economical needs met."

Superintendent Laura Mitchell said a lot of the problem stems from outdated contact information on file for students' parents.

"We don't always have phone numbers that work or emails that are correct," said Mitchell. "We've been able to track some parents down through Facebook."

Among parents who do have accurate contact information, the process of virtual learning from home still isn't always easy. For Lenice Williams and her son, the system isn't as accessible for children with learning disabilities or special needs.

Williams' children attend Gamble Montessori High School. Her son has autism and usually struggles with change.

"I do get a call from the team lead, Mrs. Childs, making sure of this assignment, saying 'this isn't done, this isn't done, this isn't done,'" said Williams. She said she worries about the impact remote learning may have on her son's education and overall growth.

"Not having a regimented day ... but not only that, not having the experiences," said Williams. "Montessori education is immersed in experience ... they're missing that component where they're getting out, and learning."

To help with regular immersion and educational needs, the school district also plans to launch CPS TV on Monday morning. The cable TV channel will air a wide array of educational programming throughout the week for K-12 students. For viewers with Spectrum TV, the program will be found on channel 15. For those with Cincinnati Bell, it will be channel 803.