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Columbus City Schools Will Keep All Students Home For Beginning Of School Year

A sign outside Clinton Elementary School reads "All CCS Schools Closed 3/16 to 5/1 - Wash your hands!"
Ryan Hitchcock

Columbus City Schools will keep all its students at home learning remotely when the school year begins September 8.

Tuesday’s announcement marks a departure from the district's initial plans introduced at the end of June. Under that proposal, high schoolers would’ve stayed home, but K-8 students would attend in-person classes two days a week. Superintendent Talisa Dixon says that was too risky.

"Although it was our hope that we could return to some form of in-person learning in September," Dixon says, "the risk of bringing back 50,000 students and 10,000 employees to our buildings in the fall is far too great.”

The district says at-home learning will extend until at least October 27.

Dixon and School Board President Jennifer Adair acknowleged the move would leave many in the district upset. But they insist that keeping students home is the best way to keep them safe, especially as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in Franklin County.

The decision comes after the teachers' union, Columbus Education Association, called for remote learning in an open letter

"Citing the health and safety of students, staff, and our community, Columbus teachers have consistently called for this outcome throughout the summer, culminating in our recent open letter signed by nearly 2,700 CEA members," the union said in a statement Tuesday. "We look forward to reaching an agreement with the District on the details of this plan."

City officials recently handed $7 million in CARES Act funding to the district to purchase laptops for students.

Columbus Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts says the city needs to see at least four consecutive weeks of declining COVID-19 cases before considering a return to in-person instruction.

"And then we can discuss what it would be like to go back to the classroom," Roberts says. "But until we reach that, I have made a recommendation that they not bring kids back into the classroom."

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.