Columbus Public Schools (CPS) has released an updated back-to-school plan for dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Masks will be required at school, universal health precautions will be in place and students and staff members are to perform daily home health screenings. All students will be required to attend school in-person unless they are at risk of COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition.
This plan is subject to change, though, depending on how the situation with COVID-19 evolves.
“We’re following East-Central District Health’s risk assessment dial. We’ve developed plans for green, yellow, orange and red. Right now all we are sending out is what we’re going to do under yellow, which is what we’re currently at,” CPS Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz said.
With everyone wearing masks, social distancing can be slightly adjusted so all students can be present, Loeffelholz said.
Students will be required to sanitize their hands and desks when they enter and exit classrooms. CPS is trying to minimize student movement as much as possible. Loeffelholz said that will be harder to do in middle and high school, though, because those students move from classroom to classroom throughout the day.
“When they go from class to class they’re going to remain in assigned seats. So they have to sit in the same seats every single day so that if there’s a positive case we can do our contact tracing,” Loeffelholz said.
School visitors will also be restricted.
“The general public and clubs and organizations, as of right now, are not going to be allowed in our buildings,” Loeffelholz said.
Exceptions include food service delivery people and parents who make appointments for educational purposes.
Meanwhile, guardians of students with underlying health conditions should contact the CPS Student Services Office about online learning.
“We would provide a form for their physician to fill out and complete. From there we would make arrangements for online learning,” Student Services Executive Director Jason Harris said.
Harris said he expects only a handful of students will end up opting out of in-school learning for medical reasons. Otherwise, there are currently no accommodations for students or families who do not want to participate in in-person learning.
“Right now our district plan is that if the student is not directly impacted and the doctor’s or physician’s note could not be written about the student, but they have family members that are impacted, that we would expect the student to be in school. The family members would have to come up with a plan at their own to keep them safe,” Harris said.
However, the World Health Organization says the virus primarily spreads from person to person, meaning students who are exposed during school may bring the virus home with them. Thus, immunocompromised family members remain at risk.
At this point, all statues and laws regarding school attendance will apply to any child who does not attend school, Loeffelholz noted.
“As long as there’s not a closure or a state of emergency, then our schools have to be open for students and families,” Loeffelholz said.
The state, he said, has mostly left it up to local districts to decide how to deal with public schooling during the pandemic.
“Some school districts are offering e-learning programs and other things. We don’t know if we have the staffing to do that. We’re going to have staff members with underlying health issues who may have to stay home just like some of those children and we have to find substitutes,” Loeffelholz said.
Remote online learning isn’t completely out of the question, though, Loeffelholz added.
“I’m not saying it won’t change in the future – we’ve always got to look at our community and assess the need – but right now that’s where we’re at,” Loeffelholz said.
CPS will need to be flexible to the needs of some kids and families and will try to take those situations into consideration, he added.
"I hope people understand there are some things we might be able to do and some things we just can’t do,” Loeffelholz said.
Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.