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Columbus City Schools Resume Some In-Person Classes

Champion Middle School in Columbus.
Mary Rathke
Champion Middle School in Columbus.

Columbus City School teachers and students are fighting the weather Monday morning as they make their way to the district’s first in-person classes since last March.The district on Monday starts a blended learning model that breaks pre-K through fifth grade students into two groups, with each attending class two days a week. Pre-K through third grade starts in-person instruction on Monday, and fourth and fifth graders return in one week on February 8.

Middle and high school students will return to class once the district can find enough transportation.

“If anyone goes out to Target even with a mask on, you’re probably having a greater risk of getting COVID than coming into a classroom,” school board president Jennifer Adair told WOSU last week. “We have controlled spaces with lots of mitigation in place and the health experts are telling us that we are ready to go and we have safe environments. So we’re excited.”

The Columbus Education Association, the union representing local teachers and staffers, contends members want to be in classrooms too, but that remote learning remains the safest option.

“We want to be in front of our kids, there’s no doubt about it, but you know safe as possible," said CEA president John Coneglio. "And I tell the teachers and I’ll tell everybody this, when the district makes us return, it’s safety first, teaching second."

Coneglio also says the hybrid approach, cycling between half the class in person and the other half at home, means students will get less face-to-face interaction with their teachers.

“What parents need to understand is when we’re teaching their kids remote, they’re going to have more facetime in the remote model than they will have in, with their teachers, than they will have in the hybrid model,” Coneglio says.

The move to hybrid learning will bring Columbus City Schools in line with districts around the county.

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.