MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Schools took a step toward normal operations Tuesday with the announcement that in-person students will begin attending school four days a week on Sept. 28.
Superintendent Stan Jefferson announced the change at Tuesday's school board meeting, which was the first in-person meeting since the middle of May.
Students are currently split into two cohorts -- Falcons and Tygers, who attend school on a hybrid schedule, with two days in person and three online. Starting Sept. 28, the Falcons and Tygers will reunite into one student body.
Students will attend in-person classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will continue to be an online learning day, with teachers providing virtual instruction. This change will not impact Tyger Digital Academy students, who will remain fully remote.
The district will continue operating on this schedule until the end of the nine-week period on Oct. 16, unless the county reaches Level 3 or 4 of the Public Health Advisory System.
All students who receive meals from the district will take Wednesday meals home from school on Tuesday.
Board president Renda Cline asked if this plan would change if there were an outbreak in the district.
"If there are high numbers (of positive COVID-19 cases) in our district, we will operate accordingly? If we have an outbreak or something of that sort within a building or within the district we would make adjustments?" Cline asked.
"To your questions, yes," Jefferson replied. "We must follow the (Richland Public Health) guidelines."
Jefferson noted that Richland County has been "yellow" for the last four weeks, meaning it is rated on the lowest tier of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. He also pointed out that the ultimate goal is to return to regular, in-person classes five days a week.
"Our chief purpose is to provide education as well as safety as we phase ourselves back into a full, five-day-a-week schedule (while) we follow the Richland County health guidelines," Jefferson said. "What we wanted when we said 'Reset and Restart' was to phase ourselves back into school. We did that these three weeks through a hybrid situation. Now our students and our staff is ready for the four day (model)."
He added that the Ohio Department of Education is no longer exempting schools from state testing requirements.
"Our students need their teachers, our students need their parents, our students need their counseling services and support services as much as possible," he said.
The board of education did not address the hack of district computers, which occurred last spring but was not made known to staff and families until Sept. 1. Jefferson stated that no personal data of students, staff or families was compromised during the hack.
The district paid $10,000 of the $89,544.67 bill to cybersecurity firm Arete Incident Response in relation to the hack.
According to an invoice, the company provided forensic investigations, incident response support, project management, reporting, security validation, monitoring and containment. The invoice also included a fixed fee for "ransomware, decryption and decryption validation" services. The rest of the bill was covered by the district's insurance company.
The board also:
-- Accepted various Teacher Assistance Program Grants from The Richland County Foundation.
-- Approved an amendment to the district's interscholastic athletics policy.
-- Approved a contract with the Mansfield Art Center to run a middle school S.T.E.A.M. program.
-- Approved a job description for a registered nurse.
-- Entered into executive session to conference with the board's attorney to discuss matters which are the subject of pending or imminent court action and consider the employment, dismissal, or discipline of a public employee or official.