MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Schools will start off the academic year with two weeks of hybrid learning.
“We know there is a lot of anxiety around returning to school. We want to do it in a phased-in approach,” Director of Curriculum Stephen Rizzo explained at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
“We think the more opportunity we have to work with students in the small group initially, the more likely we are to be successful throughout the year,” he added.
Richland County moved from Level Three (Red) to Level One (Yellow) in last week's statewide COVID-19 rating system. In the past two weeks, Richland County rated 58th among Ohio's 88 counties in cases per 100,000 people. The ratings are updated on Thursdays.
According to previous plans released by the district, schools will operate on a five-day-a-week schedule under Levels One and Two of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System and a hybrid schedule under Level Three. Shortly after the district announced it would return to school on the hybrid schedule, Richland County switched from Level Three to Level One.
The district will be on the hybrid schedule during the first two weeks of classes, beginning Sept. 7. Rizzo stated that the “learning plan” for the rest of September will be announced no later than Sept. 17.
Under the hybrid schedule, the student body will be divided into two groups -- Tygers and Falcons. Tygers will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. Falcons will attend in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays. When students are not in school, they will complete remote school work.
Rizzo also announced the district will return to traditional grading practices for all students in the fall, regardless of whether they opt for in-person classes or the Tyger Digital Academy. Students in grades PreK-2 will be evaluated on a non-traditional progress measure. Students in grades 2-12 will receive letter grades.
He added that the district is still finalizing details regarding its specialty elementary schools. There will be an informational meeting for Springmill STEM families on Aug. 10 and Spanish Immersion families on Aug. 14.
Director of School Improvement Andrea Moyer and the district’s emergency management consultants also discussed safety measures for the upcoming school year.
Sandy Hovest of Resource Solutions Associates, an emergency management consulting firm, said schools are eliminating shared tables in favor of individual desks whenever possible. These desks will be spaced out throughout classrooms.
When students do have to work in groups, they will use plastic dividers to create a barrier while sitting at a shared table.
Hallways will be divided into “lanes” with an empty lane in the middle; staircases will become one-way whenever possible.
Cafeterias will be cleaned between each lunch period. Buildings will be deep cleaned and fogged at least once a week or twice a week on the district’s Level 3 hybrid schedule. Custodians will also be cleaning high-touch areas, such as handrails, throughout the day.
Choir classes will likely be held in larger spaces when possible to allow for social distancing.
“Singing is one of the more dangerous activities so the recommendation is that they be placed nine feet away from each other,” Hovest said.
Students in grades K-12 will now have to wear face masks, per Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive order Tuesday afternoon. Students will be provided “mask breaks” throughout the day. These breaks will take place with students socially distanced and will be no longer than 15 minutes.
Rizzo also asked parents whose child cannot wear a mask to reach out to the district. Students who cannot wear a mask for a medical reasons should contact the school nurse. Students who cannot wear a mask due to a special need should contact the special education coordinator. Any parent or guardian seeking an exemption for their child must fill out a form.
The district has also established a general question email inbox at email@example.com.
The board ended the meeting with an executive session to conference with its attorney to discuss matters which are the subject of pending or imminent court action and to consider the employment, dismissal or discipline of a public employee or official.
After returning to public session, the board voted 4-1 to accept a separation agreement with Kristy Diaz. Board member Chris Elswick cast the sole dissenting vote.
Diaz was a secretary at the high school before being fired for alleged sexual misconduct. She was dismissed by the board last December.