Dear Students, Staff, and Families,
You may have heard that many school districts in central Ohio, including Bexley, Columbus, Gahanna, Hilliard, Southwestern, and others, have announced that their districts will be starting the 2020-2021 school year in full-time distance learning. We expect other central Ohio districts to make that decision as well in the coming days.
For the past several months, I, along with other central Ohio superintendents, have been meeting weekly with Dr. Mysheika Roberts of Columbus Public Health and Mr. Joe Mazzola of Franklin County Public Health (FCPH). During our meeting on Tuesday, they released new recommendations and criteria. Based upon the case counts, positivity rates, and trend data, they have advised that schools begin the school year with all students in distance learning. This morning, Mr. Mazzola officially released his recommendations. A full copy of his letter is attached.
FCPH is strongly recommending all schools begin the 2020-2021 school year operating remotely. FCPH will be evaluating surveillance data and communicating its observations weekly with school partners as the school year begins. Specifically, FCPH will be monitoring the following:
- Overall level of risk as defined by the state public health advisory alert system. They are recommending that this not be used as the indicator, but rather just as a single metric for consideration. We had initially communicated that “it will be used as AN indicator not THE indicator” for Grandview Heights Schools.
- Weekly trends in the overall number of cases and in those who are school-aged. Currently Franklin County is averaging around 260 new cases daily. This needs to be significantly reduced.
- Trends in county testing positivity rates as provided by healthcare partners. Currently, positivity rates are between 8 and 13 percent. This also needs to be significantly reduced.
FCPH also recommends that schools discontinue extracurricular activities including sports, band, and other activities during periods of remote learning.
This Saturday, August 1, at 10:00 a.m., the Grandview Heights Schools Board of Education will hold a special board meeting to discuss these new recommendations and decide how to proceed with the upcoming school year.
Based on these new Franklin County Public Health recommendations and in deference to the sobering COVID-19 spread in Franklin County, unless something significantly changes, I plan to recommend to the board that Grandview Heights Schools begin the school year in full distance learning.
We will continue to meet with Mr. Mazzola and his team on a weekly basis to reassess our ability to physically return to school. It is my intention to bring students physically back as soon as we are able based on improvement in the above outlined criteria and guidance from FCPH; therefore, I am not recommending a specific date to return to school.
Realistically, based on current metrics outlined in Mr. Mazzola’s letter, Franklin County has some significant work to do in reducing the spread of COVID-19. We have a reopening plan that ensures a high quality distance learning experience for students, yet allows us to pivot.
Like you, there’s nothing I want more than to begin the school year with students and staff in the classroom. That remains our goal. However, we must follow the guidelines of health experts to make sure we open school in the safest way possible for all. We know that this is not how parents, board members, students, teachers, or administrators want to start the school year. We hope this is temporary and look forward to the day we can safely be back in our classrooms and school buildings soon.
The Board of Education special meeting on August 1, at 10 a.m., can be observed on the district’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/c/GrandviewHeightsSchools If you would like to address the board during Public Participation portion on the agenda, please email Hayley Head, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, at firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. on Friday, July 31, with your request to speak.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Andy Culp, Superintendent