We received the “Back Together 2020” plan from Olentangy Schools yesterday with our options for the 2020-21 school year, and the news was disappointing.
I’ve always been a huge supporter of our schools, and I realize that these decisions are not easy ones to make. Coronavirus life is not what any of us would have chosen, and it’s impossible to please everyone.
It’s especially tough in light of the fact that the Olentangy community seems to have formed into two opposing, polarized groups on Facebook: Open Olentangy wants the schools back to normal at any cost, while Open Safe Olentangy wants school to be safe for our kids, first and foremost.
The Open Olentangy group is disturbing to say the least. I never joined, but because I was invited by a member, I am able to see all posts. The group is full of anti-maskers and Coronavirus-deniers. Anyone who espouses a view other than “schools should be opened as normal at any risk” is shot down or ejected from the group. It’s proven to be a hotbed of ignorance, science-disbelievers and intolerance.
I’ve even seen comments in Open Olentangy that claim the Coronavirus is made up and will literally vanish once the presidential election is over. I’m not saying everyone in the group is like that, of course – but it’s alarming how many are. Reading the posts and comments, it seems that nothing is wrong, there are no risks and anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts.
The Open Safe Olentangy group, on the other hand, has an emphasis on “safe” because we want our kids, teachers and school staff to be SAFE. We want safety precautions such as mandatory masks, 6 feet of social distancing and enough options so that parents can feel reassured that our kids can learn in school AND stay healthy this fall. This group seems to have a mix of extremely cautious parents who likely will choose an online option, and moderately cautious parents who would likely prefer a hybrid option.
Olentangy’s Back Together 2020 plan
I am beyond disappointed that, in the newly announced Olentangy Schools plan, parents are given just two extreme options: either send kids back 5 days a week to overcrowded conditions with only 3 feet of social distancing “when possible” OR commit to a full year of online education with no chance of kiddos coming back to school if things start to look better in the spring.
I had hoped for a more moderate, hybrid option, where kids can go back to school in smaller groups a couple of days a week, and do online learning at home the other days. It’s true that this hybrid approach would be very difficult for working parents, but it also seems to be the safest course of action in terms of limiting the spread of disease and allowing schools to follow CDC recommendations.
Olentangy’s plan notes that they will offer a hybrid approach if the Coronavirus situation gets worse and Delaware County goes to a level three public emergency. In other words, they’ll take safety precautions only AFTER the problem worsens.
Isn’t it ironic that the very thing that could cause our county to move to a level three public emergency is the 5-days in school approach the district is proposing for the start of school next month?!
Our daughter is entering 5th grade this year; it’s her last year at the elementary school she adores. Her 4th grade year was brutally cut in half due to the Coronavirus, but she handled it like a champ. I truly wish she could have at least some sense of normalcy by being back in school a few days each week, but without the fear of overcrowding and with the safety of masks and 6 feet of social distancing. It doesn’t feel like that’s asking too much.
I’m not afraid of online schooling – we made it work in the spring, and I know our family will do our best and adapt again if it comes to that. But I am angry that OLSD is making the online option seem so punitive by forcing parents to lock in for the entire year. Other districts are allowing flexibility so that parents can start kids with online learning, then pivot back to in-person education if/when health conditions improve.
Olentangy’s plan – the two options currently available to parents – is rigid, restrictive and seems to play right into the two extremes, leaving parents with more moderate views stuck with no good option. My only hope at this point is that the Health Department will shoot it down and force OLSD to go with the hybrid approach.
And honestly, maybe that was the school district’s strategy all along. Maybe they had to make it look like they were going with the “open as normal” approach that Open Olentangy demands in their petition – knowing that either the county Coronavirus conditions or the Health Department will end up mandating a hybrid approach after all. That way, the district could say “it’s not our fault” and have their butts covered when all the Open Olentangy parents rant and complain.
A lot can change between now and August 31, our new date for the first day of school. Whatever happens, here’s hoping for a healthy and happy school year for all of us; a flexible, compassionate approach that meets our kids’ needs; and – because I’m an optimist and a dreamer – a future with a lot less division and polarization so we can truly be One Olentangy.
If you’re a fellow Olentangy resident, what did you think of the Back to School plan? If you’re from another district, what’s your school year looking like for this fall – and are you happy with the options provided for students? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on Facebook.