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As CPS Schools Return, Walnut Hills Is The Odd One Out

Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Sept. 30, 2020 meeting)
The CPS Board of Education as pictured during a regular meeting on Sept. 30, 2020.

As schools transition back to in-person learning in Cincinnati, one school won't be able to.

Walnut Hills High School won't be returning to in-person classes next week for two reasons: high enrollment and small classrooms.

Currently, 2,877 students are enrolled in the school, and the average class size is 32. The classroom sizes will not allow for social distancing measures to be taken.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Sept. 30, 2020 meeting)
Walnut Hills considered four options for transitioning, but the classroom sizes wouldn't allow for social distancing.

CPS Deputy Superintendent Tianay Amat said Walnut Hills considered four options for returning, including a blended model.

"With this model, it would require 56 new teachers for grades seven and nine because we would have to split those classrooms up to maintain social distancing," Amat said.

A survey has shown that 60% of Walnut Hills parents prefer their children remain in the five-day distance learning model.

CPS Return Plan

Students will start transitioning to in-person learning in Cincinnati next Monday.

Pre-K through second grade students, as well as seventh and eighth students, will be the first to return. Students were divided by last name into two groups - A and B. Group A's first day in the classroom will be next Tuesday, and Group B's next Thursday.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Sept. 30, 2020 meeting)

Superintendent Laura Mitchell said CPS is moving in the right direction and that the district can't look at the current situation through a traditional lens.

"The challenge that we are facing will not support a traditional way of thinking," Mitchell said. "We are not in a traditional time and our educational setting is not traditional in any sense of the word."

Starting Oct. 12, third through sixth grade students as well as high schoolers will begin in-person learning.

CPS Survey Results

Parents have mixed feelings regarding sending their kids back to school in Cincinnati.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Sept. 30, 2020 meeting)

More than 3,000 parents took part in a survey given by CPS. Forty-nine percent of parents expressed a level of comfort in sending their kids back to in-person learning, while 48% are hesitant or extremely comfortable.

Parents are raising concerns about the disruption associated with switching learning models as well as the amount of teacher instruction students will receive in a blended model.

Only 13% of the survey’s respondents said they would enroll their children into the Cincinnati Digital Academy.

COVID-19 Related Costs

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Sept. 30, 2020 meeting)

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost CPS more than $42M to date. At least $2.2M has gone toward expanding the staff at the Cincinnati Digital Academy.

Money from the CARES Act was also used to create "Ready to Go" kits. These will be given to students in case a school has to close immediately due to COVID-19.

At least $4M has been spent to hire more nurses throughout the school district and $5.3M has gone toward cleaning supplies, PPE and thermometers.