Some Licking County schools tweak return approach after holiday break

NEWARK – For some Licking County schools, the return from the holiday break was business as usual.

a sign on a lawn: Granville Schools

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Granville Schools

While many came back as scheduled last Monday or Tuesday, others, however, chose to take a different approach because of COVID-19.

Southwest Licking, for example, decided to wait an extra week, until Tuesday, Jan. 12.

“We modified our original return date to allow time to pass from holiday gatherings to hopefully deter spreading the virus,” Southwest superintendent Kasey Perkins said. “All of our in-person learners, which is 75 percent, returned on that day. We are confident we will be able to continue our in-person learning through the duration of the school year.”

Granville returned to school last week in a remote setting, but starting the second semester on Monday, Jan. 11, the district resumed its five days a week in-person.

“This went extremely well, based on the infrastructure we have put in place for several years,” superintendent Jeff Brown said of the remote learning week.  “We had great attendance in our Zoom classroom experiences.” The district chose to begin the new calendar year remotely as a firewall against any potential COVID-19 spikes that might have resulted from the holidays.

“It was also a success because we did have multiple COVID cases that were identified that week that did not come into the school environment.” Brown said. “The point was to try and give a little bit of time and space between some of the celebrations. From that standpoint, the remote week was a huge success and it served its purpose.”

Brown said 80 percent of Granville is currently in-person.

Licking Heights remained fully virtual through Wednesday, but on Monday, the board of education set Jan. 25 for the district’s return to hybrid schooling.

Under the guidelines agreed to by the board, those students who had opted for hybrid learning for the latter part of the 2020 school year will be permitted to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 25. Parents of students who previously opted in but are now not comfortable returning their students for some in-person education will be permitted to remain in a virtual only model.

Once the district has returned to hybrid learning, superintendent Dr. Philip Wagner said it would make sense to then go back to remaining parents so more could opt-in for in-person learning for the fourth quarter of the school year that kicks off in March.

Staffing shortages continue to affect schools’ decisions. For that reason, Heath superintendent Trevor Thomas said the high school went to remote learning for the first seven days back.

“We anticipate that this move to remote for seven days will appropriately address the problem,” Thomas said last week. “Students in high school will be attending class via Zoom on a normal class schedule.  Student activities and athletics will continue as scheduled. Staff will report to work. All other buildings will continue a normal schedule of in person learning.”

Lakewood and Northridge came back last week with their normal hybrid approach. 

“At Lakewood, we returned in our hybrid (two in-person days. three remote days per week) on Tuesday as we have been in his model the entire school year,” Superintendent Mark Gleichauf said. “As I would like to combine our cohorts in the future and have students in-person more frequently, it has not been determined when or if that will happen.”

“We did not delay and continued in our hybrid mode as scheduled,” said Northridge superintendent Scott Schmidt  “The number of families and students who are quarantined or experience symptoms continues to fluctuate week by week. We have not seen any specific spikes that have caused us to change operations.”

Other districts have continued with in-person learning as 2020 turned over to 2021. “As long as our staff avoids COVID we will be able to keep schools open,” said Licking Valley superintendent Dave Hile. “The sooner our staff can get the vaccine, the better.”

“Newark’s return to school has gone as planned,” superintendent David Lewis said. “Students are back to school in-person and online, as they were before the holiday break. We don’t anticipate anything changing at this time, though we are always in contact with the health department and will continue monitoring student and staff health.”

“We started back as planned on the 4th and are doing well so far,” said North Fork superintendent Scott Hartley. “Our attendance numbers remain consistent from before break to now. We will continue to monitor the numbers and make the necessary changes, which will depend on the issue at hand. With any luck things will continue to improve throughout the rest of the school year, and we can provide as much normalcy as we can to our students.”  

Johnstown superintendent Dale Dickson said 86 percent of the district’s students returned to in-person learning on Jan. 4, with the remaining 14 percent receiving online instruction from the Johnnie Learning Academy.

“We continue to work closely with the Licking County Department of Health to monitor COVID-19 positive cases and necessary quarantines,” Dickson said. “We are finding that when staff, students and parents follow established hygiene and social distancing guidelines, schools remain a safe environment.”

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This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Some Licking County schools tweak return approach after holiday break

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