Big Walnut Local Schools is offering families the options of in-person or remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year.
In the wake of the continued outbreak of COVID-19 in Ohio and nationwide, the district announced its reopening plans for fall 2020 on its website.
“While we are excited for our students to return to the school buildings, we know that some of our students will benefit from continuing their education in a remote learning environment due to health and safety considerations,” the district said. “As a result, Big Walnut Local Schools will be offering two learning options for the 2020-2021 school year, in- person learning and remote learning. Working together, we can ensure that we continue to inspire and guide our students during the 2020-2021 school year.”
With in-person learning, which will be done in the traditional manner with students attending school Monday through Friday, the district said there will be increased health and safety precautions in place. Those include having all staff and students in third grade and higher wear facial coverings (exceptions made if they can’t for health and developmental reasons). Facial coverings are recommended for students in kindergarten through second grade in common areas, hallways and restrooms.
“Students will be educated on the importance of hand-washing, hygiene, social distancing and the wearing of facial coverings,” the district said.
Students will bring their own supplies and water bottles. They will not share supplies.
At the buildings, classroom doors will remain open. Water fountains will be closed except for water-filling stations. Lockers will not be used. In the cafeteria, students will be socially distanced as much as possible and hand washing or sanitizing will be required before and after lunch. The same precautions will be used for recess.
There will be no field trips, and volunteers or visitors will generally not be permitted.
If COVID-19 conditions worsen in a building, the district or there is a state mandate, students may have to go to a full or partial remote learning plan.
Big Walnut families are to take student temperatures daily and determine if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Parents are encouraged to transport their children to and from school. If students do take the bus, they will be assigned seats. They will need to wear facial coverings and use hand sanitizer getting on and off the bus. The drivers will also wear facial coverings, and the buses will be disinfected between runs and at the end of the day.
“Extracurricular activities will resume and will adhere to recommendations,” the district said. “Remote learning students will have the same extracurricular opportunities as students doing in-person learning.”
For remote learning, each student will learn at home using a district-provided Chromebook. Big Walnut is partnering with a virtual curriculum provider to give digital lessons with teacher interaction. “Students enrolled in this model may not have access to all classes that may otherwise be offered in the in-person learning option,” the district said.
“For the sake of continuity,” transferring from one option to the other during the two semesters of August-December and January-May were not recommended, but “a process will be outlined for students experiencing extenuating circumstances during the semester.”
Families must decide their preference by July 20 by going to www.bwls.net and hitting the “Select an Option” button. There will also be options regarding transportation and internet access. Preferences must be selected for each child in the family.
A list of 19 frequently-asked questions for specific situations was a part of the four-page reopening guide.
In addition to the two learning options, there may also be a later start to the school year.
“In order to prepare our staff for the logistics of this school year, we are likely to modify the calendar for this year,” the district said. If so, that means staff would return on Aug. 17, there would be a staggered start for grades K-12 (Aug. 24-28 with more details to come), and the first full-day of learning for all grades would be Aug. 31. Preschool is yet to be determined.
The district said the start dates shouldn’t change the end of the school year dates.
For more information, call the central office of Big Walnut Local Schools at 740-965-3010.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.