Dear WCSD Families:
Over the past two days, district officials have had several meetings to discuss how best to proceed during the final two weeks leading up to Winter Break. Medical authorities from OhioHealth and Mount Carmel St. Ann’s have been part of these discussions as well. Their input is greatly appreciated and has been extremely valuable to how we intend to complete our first semester of school.
At this time, beginning December 7 and continuing through December 18, our plan is to have all students return to Blended Learning and follow the Cohort A/Cohort B calendar. This will allow each cohort of students to receive five more days of in-person instruction prior to Winter Break. Westerville Virtual Academy students will continue to receive their instruction through that program.
As anticipated, medical professionals have determined that small gatherings at people’s homes appear to be driving COVID-19 cases and hospital admission numbers. Our local authorities have confirmed, and recent data continue to support, that school-aged children remain a very small percentage of COVID-19 cases in our region, state and nation. Given these findings, medical experts have expressed their support for the various health measures that schools have in place, as well as instructional models that mitigate transmission while safely allowing in-person teaching and learning to take place.
Local health officials also conveyed to us that the pandemic’s mental health impact on youth is one of the medical community’s greatest concerns. Isolation and fear of the unknown are causing significant spikes in anxiety and depression. The consistency of following our Blended Learning model, as well as allowing students to be with friends and trusted educators in a safe, structured, school environment leading up to the holidays, will certainly help in this regard.
Student participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities will be modified slightly. The Ohio Capital Conference has indicated that they will not permit conference athletic matches through at least December 18. Therefore, we will continue to postpone extracurricular and athletic activities through at least Sunday, December 13. At the time activities are able to resume, our plan is to implement the small-group “pod” model and other safety protocols that were followed earlier this year. Please watch for more information from your directors, advisors, and coaches in the coming weeks. We believe returning to this structure will allow students to continue with their activities safely, while giving coaches and advisors a greater ability to monitor and quickly address potential health concerns.
We will continue to monitor health data and consult with local medical authorities over the coming weeks. This plan remains subject to change at a moment’s notice as new data and information on local health conditions becomes available. Once again, we encourage you to have a contingency plan in place in the event we need to make a rapid transition to a different instructional model over the next several weeks. On behalf of the Board and district leadership team, thank you for your continued understanding and support.
Dr. John R. Kellogg
Follow-up Message on 12/2/20
Dear WCSD Families:
I want to provide this brief follow-up to yesterday’s announcement that all students will return to Blended Learning and resume following the Cohort A/Cohort B schedule on Monday, December 7. Many of you have since asked if we are aware that there is now an imbalance of in-person instructional days among student cohorts, given that we had extended remote learning through December 4.
We are aware, and I spoke about this imbalance with Board members during last week’s regular Board of Education meeting. As part of my report, I shared that while we do intend to address this imbalance, I believe it would be premature to make any changes to the calendar at this time.
Simply put, we cannot predict what regional health conditions will look like over the next several weeks, especially since we are now in flu season and additional holidays known for parties and gatherings are before us. However, we will continue to monitor the data and consult with health officials to determine if conditions merit another change, and how that change impacts our cohort schedule.
While we tend to think of students’ health as the primary reason for such decisions, we regularly monitor staff absences and our ability to cover them. Excessive staff absence is yet another factor that could cause us to switch instructional models, which is why we have been encouraging families to have a contingency plan in place should we need to make a sudden change.
Please know that we will continue to explore ways to address the imbalance of in-person instructional days among Cohort A and Cohort B students. At this time, however, we intend to see how the next several weeks unfold and continue to explore ways to address the imbalance moving forward.
Dr. John R. Kellogg