Westerville City School District Superintendent Dr. John R. Kellogg announced Wednesday, July 29 that district officials have decided to open the 2020-21 school year in a 100% remote instructional model, rather than the blended learning model originally announced.
“A conversation yesterday with area health officials and other central Ohio superintendents confirmed that, while not ideal, this is the appropriate course of action to follow if our region hopes to contain and decrease the spread of COVID-19,” Kellogg explained. “Though there was a recent short-term improvement to some key data being monitored, according to Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health, the confirmed rate of COVID-19 cases in our region over the last four to six weeks, as well as the ratio of daily cases compared to the total population, continue to trend upward and remain concerning to them.”
Kellogg said WCSD intends to follow the recommendation from Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health officials that schools should not reopen under any model that provides in-person instruction, but instead should open under a remote learning model.
“We have been advised that schools could consider offering blended learning with in-person instruction only when there is at least a sustained positive trend in the data health officials are monitoring,” Kellogg added. “By opening under a fully remote learning plan, our district is contributing toward their strategy to sustain and quicken this decline toward more acceptable numbers.”
Given this change, WCSD is extending families’ ability to enroll in the Westerville Virtual Academy (WVA) until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31. Families that previously enrolled their student(s) in the WVA will also have the ability to disenroll them until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31, by following detailed instructions they will soon receive via email.
If a family already enrolled in the WVA opts to disenroll, the opportunity to re-enroll in WVA would not occur until the second semester. Students not enrolled in the WVA will start in a 100% virtual model, but may move to a blended model of in-person instruction and virtual learning sometime during the semester, should conditions allow.
Kellogg said beginning Thursday, July 30, the district will again restrict community use of district facilities and return to “Phase 1 Standards” for high school and middle school athletics, marching band, and other student activities.
Under Phase 1 Standards, participants will work in groups of 10 or fewer, but only for skills training and conditioning. Programs will be required to train outdoors with no access to gyms or weight rooms, with the only exception being Girls Volleyball having access to the gymnasium. Participation in any fall athletic competitions will be delayed until conditions improve. Additional details regarding these program adjustments will be provided to families as soon as possible.
“We realize this is not the news some of our families hoped to hear, but given this latest information and guidance from health officials, we must do our part as a school community to contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our region,” Kellogg explained. “We will continue working with health officials and support their efforts to achieve sustained improvement in the data they are monitoring.”
Kellogg said the hope of district officials is that conditions will continue to improve accordingly so they can soon offer a blended learning environment and eventually return to a traditional school experience for students.