Since March, our school community has navigated a significant challenge together. Our summer has consisted of meetings, both virtual and face-to-face, to find a balanced approach to restarting school. This planning process has produced the work you will see below. I am proud of and grateful for the contributions our parents, teachers, support staff, coaches, administrators, board members, and community members have made to these plans.
Ultimately, the superintendent is tasked with making the recommendation for the start of school. In addition to contributions noted above, I have consulted with the Union County Health Department and other Central Ohio School Districts. I have studied the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, guidance from the State of Ohio, as well as, researched the successes and challenges in school reopenings across Europe, Israel, South Korea, and Australia. The guidance from public health says that assessing symptoms, wearing facial covers, enhanced cleaning protocols, hand washing, and social distancing are very important. The first four are fairly easy to implement. Unfortunately, social distancing in our schools, and on school buses is very difficult. I share this information with you for transparency and to detail the thought everyone has invested in this process.
Based on what we know today, the fact that Union County is in Red, and in order to implement the recommended social distancing, I believe teachers and families in Fairbanks Local Schools should be planning for Learning Level 2 (50% model) to start the school year.
Below, is an update on the Safe Start planning for this school year. This is lengthy, but the hope is to address several key concerns. This update will encompass thoughts on risk, the Safe Start Plan (consisting of the Learning Levels, COVID-19 Guidebook, and Masking Plan), Full Remote Option, district mailing and a Virtual Town Hall.
The intention is to make a final recommendation and decision on the Learning Level for the start of school on August 3. Once school starts, the Learning Level will be reevaluated regularly to determine if a shift is necessary. The caveat being, that there are no orders or significant increases in COVID-19 that cause us to reevaluate or make emergency decisions.
Risk and Risk Mitigation
There is risk regardless of Learning Level in school this year. There are health, safety, academic, social-emotional health, and financial risks with each of these decisions. For example, Learning Level 1 (100% in school) is the lowest risk for academics and social-emotional health, but it is the highest risk for health and safety. On the other hand, Learning Level 4 (Full Remote Instruction) presents the lowest health and safety risk, but the highest for academic and social-emotional health.
Through collaborative work groups, plans have been created to mitigate risk in each Learning Level. Mitigating risk for health and safety requires a combination of diligent symptom assessment, wearing facial coverings, enhanced cleaning, appropriate hygiene practices, and social distance. This type of concept is similar to how we approach school security with locked entrances, cameras, visitor procedures, and the like.
The Safe Start Plan consisting of the Learning Levels, COVID-19 Guidebook, and Masking Plan were approved by the Fairbanks Board of Education at the regular board meeting held on Monday, July 20, 2020.
There are four Learning Levels that the district could potentially operate under this school year. The Learning Level to start school will be decided on August 3, 2020. The Learning Levels can be viewed here: 2020 – 2021 Learning Levels
As stated above, families should prepare for Level 2.
In development of the COVID-19 Guidebook, the goal was a comprehensive document that would be easy to navigate and provide families a starting place for expectations, routines and practices for this year. This document was developed through a collaborative effort of administrators, staff members, parents, and community members. Similar to other guidance, this will be updated regularly. Please review it with heightened emphasis on guiding principles, symptom assessment, and health and safety protocols. Please share any feedback that you have.
Here is the link to the Safe Start COVID-19 Guidebook: Safe Start COVID-19 Guidebook
2020-2021 Masking Plan
Ohio’s K-12 COIVD-19 Health and Prevention Guidance requires school districts to pass a masking policy. Fairbanks Masking Plan reflects the Learning Levels. It is constructed to allow for more flexibility when social distancing recommendations can be met. This plan was constructed to enhance risk mitigation to help keep teachers, support staff, and students as healthy as possible. To keep as regular of a schedule as possible throughout the year, it will take every one of us to help each other stay healthy.
Here is the link to the 2020-2021 Masking Plan: 2020 – 2021 Masking Plan
Please look for a separate communication next week with updates regarding the Masking Plan. We appreciate everyone’s help and understanding as we attempt to keep our teachers, support staff, and students healthy.
Full Remote Option
As indicated throughout the summer, Fairbanks Local Schools will offer a Full Remote Option for the 2020 – 2021 school year. Content for regular classes will be purchased from a third party vendor and supported by regular Fairbanks Staff. This option is available to all students. Students will be able to work at their own pace, coordinate plans with staff, and have regular access to teachers.
To participate in the Full Remote Option, please complete the sign-up below by Friday, July 31, 2020. For families with multiple students, please submit an intent form for each student.
Some additional notes regarding the Full Remote option:
- Families and students are asked to commit to the Full Remote option for a semester (ending at winter break). Students would be able to transition back into school at the completion of the semester or continue in the full remote option. Additionally, students would be able to enroll in the full remote option at the end of the first semester (or at winter break).
- Students participating in our full remote option have the ability to participate in athletics and activities. Students must meet all eligibility requirements for their chosen activity (ie. athletics must be enrolled in five classes, passed five classes the previous quarter, and receive a minimum GPA of 1.5)
- Additional information about the Full Remote Learning Option will be sent over the coming days.
Letters have been mailed to families to provide your child’s in person learning days for Learning Level 2. There are a few groups who will not receive this mailing or will receive this information at a later time. They are:
- Kindergartners without an older sibling enrolled in Fairbanks
- New Students in grades 1-5
- Preschool students
- Students enrolled in a Tolles or College Credit Plus program full time
For the first three groups mentioned, there are a few unique factors that go into assigning in person days for the elementary school which is the reason for the delay in the letters for those groups. Students who are enrolled full time in a Tolles or College Credit Plus program will follow the direction of their program.
Due to the complexity of assigning students, special requests for students from different households to attend on the same or adjust days to accommodate a family’s work or daycare schedule cannot be honored. Please know that much time and consideration was applied to meet the needs of our students and community. If you have questions, please contact our district office at (937) 349-3731.
Virtual Town Hall
A Virtual Town Hall has been scheduled for Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 7:00 pm for the school community. Please look for the link on the district website next week.
This document has been a collaborative effort by many in the school community. I thank each and every one for their contributions, time and support in addressing the challenges in front of us. To the community, parents, students and staff, this year will not be easy, but I am confident that the shared pride and commitment to our school district will pull us together to navigate the coming months.
Adham Schirg, Fairbanks Local Schools, Superintendent