Return to School Letter to CPS Families

July 23, 2020

Cincinnati Public Schools' Students and Families,

We hope this letter finds you well and that you are enjoying your summer. We are busy preparing for our return to school and know that you have a lot of questions. Please know that the safety of our students, staff and community remains our top priority, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that the Board of Education has approved our go-forward plan, which will return students to in-person instruction two to three days per week with remote learning the other days, we are developing the rest of the details that will help ensure a successful start to the school year. You will find more information in this letter surrounding various items, including how we will handle transportation, lunch, recess, sports, extracurricular activities, and more.

Above all, we are committed to helping create a safe environment as we reopen our schools and offices. We are working in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to establish health guidelines to help create a safe environment — such as face masks, observing six-feet of social distancing, taking temperatures and rigorous cleaning protocols. 

It is critically important that we all remain agile and flexible as the health situation in our community evolves. CPS is working with local health departments, monitoring COVID-19 cases, and using data to assess. We are prepared to adjust as needed — migrating to fully remote learning or even increasing the number of in-person days should it become safe to do so.

Schoolwide Standard COVID-19 Policies

  • All school personnel will be required to wear cloth face coverings, unless there is an underlying medical condition preventing such.
  • All students will be required to wear cloth face coverings, unless there is an underlying medical condition or disability preventing such. Exceptions will be made for students who cannot wear a mask for safety or health reasons.
  • Signage and messaging promoting cleanliness, good hygiene, and healthy social practices will be posted schoolwide.
  • Visual cues such as floor stickers will be added to promote distancing and directional routines throughout the building.
  • Water fountain use will be discouraged; parents are encouraged to provide their child with an individual water bottle (filled with water and with the child’s name on it) daily.
  • Surfaces within classrooms and common areas throughout the building will be cleaned frequently throughout the school day with products approved for use against COVID-19.
  • Buses will also be disinfected daily with products approved for use against COVID-19.
  • Building ventilation systems will be modified to increase fresh air delivery and air exchange rates.
  • Visits to the school office should be avoided except for emergency situations or enrollment. When it becomes necessary for parents to visit for school business, prior to being admitted into the main office, a temperature check will take place. Parents must have a temperature below 100.4 degrees F to secure admittance to the main office.
  • Large school assemblies, parent and community volunteer opportunities, and in-person field trips will be temporarily paused this year.
  • Anyone with the following symptoms should stay home: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Anyone who has had close contact (less than 6' social distancing for 15 minutes or longer) with an individual with a confirmed COVID-19 case should stay home and monitor for symptoms.
  • Parents should plan for multiple, pre-arranged methods of getting a student home from school should they become ill or exhibit symptoms.
  • Students will receive instruction on these safety measures and the reasons why they should be followed.

Arrival

  • All staff and students will receive a temperature check prior to the start of the school day.
  • All members of the school community are expected to take into consideration the health and well-being of all individuals. Parents should never knowingly send their child to school with a suspected illness.
  • Anyone with the following symptoms should stay home: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.
  • For bus riders, car riders, and walkers, arrival times will be staggered this year to avoid large congregations of students as they are entering the school. The specifics of your school arrival window will be shared at a later time.
  • For bus riders, masks will be required on the bus, and seats will be assigned, with the goal of one student per seat (except for siblings who may sit together). Bus monitors will be aboard yellow buses to help students follow these new safety procedures.
  • Because buses are smaller, enclosed spaces, they create additional risk even with safety precautions in place. We encourage parents and guardians who are able to drive their children to and from school to do so.

Learning Spaces

All classrooms (inclusive of PK) and learning areas will be configured to maximize space, allowing for students to have individualized work areas that take into consideration distance (6 ft. following the CDC recommendations), supplies, and personal hygiene. To ensure that small group instruction and safer distancing can be implemented for some grade level classes, the common areas (school cafeteria), gym, and other areas within the building may be utilized for classroom instruction and work.

Hand sanitizer will be placed in common areas and in each classroom.

Transitions

Every effort will be made to limit transitions throughout the school day and to stagger the class period changes. Locker access and restroom visits will also be staggered. However, students will be moving at key times. The use of directional cues, spacing, and staggering will take place.

Lunch/Recess

Breakfast and lunch will be held in classrooms. Recess will be held each day for small groups at a time.

Bathroom Usage/Routines

Routines and procedures will be put in place limiting the number of students in restrooms at any one time. Handwashing breaks for students will be scheduled into the day.

Dismissal

Dismissal will also be staggered this year to avoid large congregations of students as they are leaving school. The specifics of your school dismissal window will be shared at a later time.

Learning Options

Learning will launch across the district from a single platform in the upcoming year, Schoology. This platform will house everything learners and families need. Weekly communication from teachers will include updates such as assignments due, announcements, and learning activities when remote.

District adopted curriculum has been built into bi-weekly cycles of instruction for math, ELA, social studies, and science For more information on how to use this platform, go to our website

Fall Family Orientations are being hosted by home schools. These will include several important pieces of information to support your child in the upcoming year:

  • How we have designed course sequences to accelerate learning.
  • Using Schoology as our learning management system.
  • Accessing PowerSchool to monitor grades, attendance, and graduation progress.
  • Understanding attendance procedures and guidelines.
  • Understanding how children and families will be supported when learning remotely.
  • Preparing for possible physical building closures or five-day-a-week remote learning.
  • Time for questions and answers.
  • Cincinnati Digital Academy is designed for families choosing a fully remote learning option.
    • Students will be offered a seamless opportunity to transition between home schools and Cincinnati Digital.
    • Cincinnati Digital’s program focuses on a five-prong approach: equity, flexibility, ease of transition, consistency, and relationships.
    • Flexibility in class load (option to take AP and CCP classes as well as recover credits).

Most students with disabilities and English learners will continue to participate in general education classes with their peers as outlined by the district, with support from intervention specialists and ESL specialists. Students in specialized classrooms (such as multiple disabilities and autism classrooms) will continue to receive special education services from their teacher of record as appropriate.

Social Emotional (SEL) Student Supports Upon Return to School

All students will be able to access social emotional support upon return to school. Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) plans will be adapted with specific teaching of procedures that promote health and safety. Clear disciplinary procedures will be in place through the Student Code of Conduct, including developmentally appropriate expectations and re-teaching opportunities for following health and safety guidelines. In order to help ensure the health and safety of all staff and students, consequences will be in place for repeated student refusal for following health and safety procedures.

Small group and individual counseling will be available to students in need, to be provided by district mental health professionals including school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, and community mental health partners. All mental health professionals are trained and available to conduct crisis assessments and respond to crises within the building. In addition, school social workers will regularly check in with families in need, helping to remove barriers to learning and referring families to community services. All students in grades 7-12 will have a school counselor available to provide academic, social/emotional, and college/career support.

Fall Sports

We are working closely with the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Guidance from OHSAA and the Governor's Office is expected soon to provide further details for the start of the season. Fall sports are scheduled to begin on August 1. Schools are currently permitted to offer skills training sessions following our health and safety guidelines. All junior high and high school students have previously been ruled academically eligible for athletic participation this fall.

Athletics is working closely with the curriculum department to align marching band, arts, and other extracurriculars.

Elementary schools will receive updates and guidance from the district athletics office when updates and guidance are provided by the Governor's Office. We will communicate directly to school resource coordinators, sports boosters organizations, school administration, and families.

Please direct any and all questions to athletics secretary Mary Hawkins.

Technology

CPS is offering devices to all of our students in grades 2–12 to ensure that they can complete schoolwork in classrooms and at home, in support of the recent board-adopted blended learning model for the 2020–2021 school year. Students in grades 2 and 3 are receiving iPads. Students in grades 4–12 are receiving laptops. We have received questions about devices for students younger than grade 2. Our youngest learners use iPads in classroom, but are not currently required to transport them home for remote learning. Each school has a designated schedule for families to pick up their device this summer. The pick-up dates for each school are listed on the district website.

Plans are being made for students who need assistive technology and/or augmentative and alternative communication methods so that their needs can be met in a variety of learning environments. 

In addition, the district is incredibly grateful to be a part of the Cincinnati Bell "Connect Our Students" program, with support from Greater Cincinnati Foundation and other partners. This pilot program offers free Wi-Fi to families at Rockdale Academy, South Avondale School, Hays-Porter Elementary School, Roberts Academy, and Fairview-Clifton German Language School. We expect to expand the "Connect our Students" program and make it available to other CPS families in August. 

Agililty and Confirmed Case Process

Per Governor DeWine's Planning Guide, Ohio schools must ​be nimble, flexible, and responsive to ensure the health and safety of all students and adults. ​If the need arises to move away from the traditional school setting as the result of signs of a cluster of new COVID-19 cases, the school may require identified grade levels or the entire school to shift to remote learning. These decisions will be made in conjunction with the local health department.

Each school will have a nurse this year, who is the designated COVID-19 point of contact. Each school also will have an identified isolation area, where individuals with symptoms can be isolated from other staff and students. The nurse will monitor this isolation area.

In the event of a confirmed case in a school building, a temporary closure (2-5 days) of a classroom, grade, or entire building may be ordered based on a risk assessment. This is to allow time for a thorough cleaning / disinfecting and to monitor whether or not additional cases are identified. We will work with the health department to determine the appropriate scope of the closure necessary to avoid community transmission (e.g., single classroom, grade level, school, or all district schools), as well as whether the initial closure should be extended. Parents and guardians will be notified about suspected and confirmed cases as they occur.

We continue to monitor health data and confirmed COVID-19 cases and will remain flexible in our planning. We also will continue to keep you updated on important items, such as your child's A or B scheduled grouping, and as new information becomes available. To help us do that, please make sure we have your correct contact information on file. To update your contact information, call your child’s school, or contact CPS' Customer Care Center at or phone (513) 363-0123 to speak with a CPS team member. Regular updates are also available on our website.

Your school office and our customer care team are available to help answer your questions. 

Backpacks on, laptops open, futures bright! We hope that you are enjoying your summer, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Sincerely,

Laura Mitchell
Superintendent


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