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Cincinnati Public Schools Reveals More Plans For Starting 2020 School Year

Ambriehl Crutchfield

Updated, Friday, Aug. 13, 10:50 a.m.

During two virtual town halls Monday, parents of Cincinnati Public School students asked questions of school leaders, who last week recommended the district switch from a blended learning back-to-school plan to going fully remote for the first five weeks of the school year.

More than 700 parents were on the call at 4 p.m. Another at 6 p.m. had more than 400. A third and final town hall is planned for Tuesday at 6 p.m.

On the first call, new details emerged around the district's reopening plans, including a return to the district's usual grading system, (last year ended as pass/fail); a new hotline to help parents with tech-related issues, which launches the first week of September; and the news the district is working with area organizations to put together childcare opportunities.

Potential Childcare

Though details of what that childcare would look like are yet to be revealed, CPS did share that opportunities will include both before- and after-school programs, as well as full-day programs.

"I want you to know that we have been working creatively for the last several weeks to provide childcare hubs throughout our community," Assistant Superintendent Shauna Murphy says.

These partners include:

  • Cincinnati Recreation Commission
  • Cincinnati Parks
  • YMCA
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative
  • ArtWorks
  • Community Action Agency
  • Cincinnati Museum Center

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was on CPS' list, but a spokesperson contacted WVXU to clarify the library's partnership with the district. While the library will not offer all-day childcare, "we are, however, in the process of setting up spaces for access to online resources, homework help, helping educators, and after-school snacks," Lisa Mauch emailed WVXU on Friday, Aug. 13. She also noted that more details of the library's offerings for students are on the horizon. 
School Attendance 

Students must log on to Google Meet during specific times, which will count as attendance. Many parents raised questions about this point, with some pointing to nontraditional work schedules and others saying they have to juggle multiple kids at multiple schools, which could prevent them from helping kids join designated class times.

Deputy Superintendent Tianay Amat said the district would be flexible with such cases and parents with concerns should reach out to their school's attendance clerk or social worker to work out an alternate plan. 

What Happens If Someone Tests Positive

The school's attorney Daniel Hoying fielded a few questions about what happens if someone tests positive in the district. He said plans are in place for communication and cleaning and sanitizing if such a case occurs. Depending on specifics of a case, a closure could be anywhere from two to five days, and it could be a single classroom up to the entire school. 

Tech Issues

CPS' Lead Engineer Jeremy Gollihue said a hotline would be in place by the first week of September for parents to call with tech-related questions. He also urged families to make sure the district has their most up-to-date address information, since that's how Cincinnati Bell is verifying whether a home is available for free Wi-Fi. 

Where CPS Stands Now On The Data

Superintendent Laura Mitchell recommended starting the school year remotely at an Aug. 3 board meeting, upending plans for a blended learning model that saw alternating days and weeks of remote and in-person learning. She said at the time that after looking at coronavirus data at the city, county and state level, she did not see the trends she hoped to see.

On Monday's call, she says the environment continues to be "very unstable."

Hamilton County earlier in the summer hovered on the cusp of turning from red to purple on Ohio's public health advisory scale. The number of cases in the county recently leveled off, and the county has now dropped to level orange. That means residents should "exercise (a) high degree of caution" rather than "limit activities as much as possible." 

Still, the state's positivity rate was at 7.7% as of Friday, Mitchell said, adding she would like to see it between 5-6%.

On Monday's calls, Mitchell again reiterated she will review the data again on Sept. 14 with the hope that students can return to the blended learning plan Sept. 28.

School starts Monday, Aug. 24.

Editor's note: This story was updated with corrected information from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.