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Sylvania switches K-5 students from in-person classes to hybrid learning

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 9:32 PM EDT
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SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG) - Sylvania Schools has again changed their position on when to send some students back to school full-time, opting against K-5 in-person classes, which had been scheduled to begin September 14.

In a harshly worded letter to parents, superintendent Veronica Motley said that she and school board members had been misled about safety measures that were supposed to have been taken as schools re-open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“What I witnessed was a lack of signage and sanitation wipes for our classrooms,” Motley said in the letter. “Most disturbingly, not all classrooms can accommodate 3 feet of social distancing.”

As a result, the letter said all students would be starting the school year with remote learning.

“Unfortunately, we found out way too late that we did not have those items or those things in place, and we owe the community an apology, we owe our families an apology, we owe our staff and our faculty an apology because this is not who we are as a district,” Motley said. “We will do better. Our kids have to be safe, our children have to be safe in their learning environment.”

On August 13, the school board voted to allow K-5 students to attend class in-person starting September 14, while the rest of the students began a hybrid model at that time, with remote classes beginning August 31.

Prior to that change, the district was going full remote for all students indefinitely.

Now, students will shift to a hybrid model on September 14, with a full in-person schedule not available until October 22 at the earliest.

The letter to parents is printed, in full, below:

Good Evening Sylvania Families,

It is in the spirit of transparency and in light of new information that I am writing to you today. You may recall that back in June, Sylvania Schools announced a goal of returning to school under our green plan, which represented a traditional school model. All students would report to school, all day, every day. This goal was based on repeated information that was provided to our Board of Education that our schools were well-prepared to open under a green plan.

The Board was specifically told:

Each classroom in the district had been measured and therefore confirmed that we can accommodate a minimum 3 feet of social distancing for our students while in the classroom.

We had enough signage for each of our buildings that met the State standards for operation (social distancing, handwashing, masks etc.).

We had purchased and secured hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes for each classroom in the district.

We had protocols/procedures in place to address movement of students and conduct wellness checks.

Upon my arrival to Sylvania Schools on August 1, I too received the same confirmation of what has turned out to be poor and inaccurate information. Upon elementary teachers returning to our buildings, principals determined that buildings were not adequately prepared and alerted upper administration. I took it upon myself to visit buildings and classrooms so that I could give testimony of our preparation, or lack thereof. What I witnessed was a lack of signage and sanitation wipes for our classrooms. Most disturbingly, not all classrooms can accommodate 3 feet of social distancing.

The Board has been misled, I have been misled, our principals/staff members were misled, and our families have been misled. Our buildings still look similar to what they looked like in March at the beginning of the pandemic. This lack of preparation is UNACCEPTABLE and we cannot in good conscience safely return our elementary children to school under the green plan.

The Board of Education and I have taken action and personnel changes have been made. Second, all elementary schools will open under our hybrid learning plan (yellow) following our two week remote learning window. The dates are as follows:

PreK - 12

August 31 - September 11- Remote Learning

September 14- October 22 (end of 1st quarter) - Hybrid Learning

Beginning Tuesday, September 15, we will begin to closely monitor if Sylvania Schools should remain under the hybrid model beyond October 22. It should be noted, a variety of other health and safety factors could impact a classroom, building, or district capability to operate and may necessitate the need to transition between learning scenarios at any time. Families should plan for alternative arrangements in case plans change with little notice as they did on March 11, 2020.

We know many of our families would like to know how we will determine when we will move to another learning plan. Sylvania Schools will consider the following variables:

• In consultation with Lucas County Health Department, Sylvania Schools will respond immediately to a heightened severity of local conditions that requires more distancing or remote learning to contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

• Any shift to a more in-person learning model will be considered and determined when data and guidance from our health department and other health agencies indicate that our district can transition to a different plan. Public health officials recommend at least 4 weeks of downward trending data before making a shift.

• Sylvania Schools understands this unique approach to learning requires flexibility of our students, families and staff in order to provide the safest learning environment to students and staff while the coronavirus is spreading.

We have continued to receive inquiries about an additional enrollment window for SALA. Based on the increased interest, we will reopen SALA registration for families. The registration will reopen at 8:00 a.m.Tuesday, August 25 and remain open through 9:00 p.m. Thursday, August 27. This registration window includes those wishing to enroll as well as those wishing to withdraw.

In closing, I along with the Board of Education know this late pivot to a hybrid learning model for elementary students announced in this letter will result in disappointment and perhaps anger for some, yet relief for others. We acknowledge the amount of frustration caused by our district changing plans more often than we should have. Although we were misled, I assure you swift action has taken place, as this amount of indecisiveness does not mirror how we should perform under “An Expectation of Excellence.” We deeply apologize for the confusion, stress and anxiety that our reopening/restart plan has had on our elementary families.

As my tenure continues as your new Superintendent, I commit to you that we WILL DO BETTER. Thank you in advance for grace and your cooperation.

Dr. Veronica Motley, Sylvania Schools Superintendent

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