- South Mifflin STEM Academy
CCS Announces Second Quarter Learning Model
Dr. Talisa Dixon has provided the below update concerning the District's transition to Blended Learning. For an indexed list of information by topic, please scroll to the bottom of this page. Please continue to check our Blended Learning hub for information.
Dear CCS Community,
I write to you today to inform you that Columbus City Schools will postpone blended learning plans for most students and remain in a remote learning model through the end of the first semester (January 15, 2021). As I will outline below, we still plan to bring in small, specific student groups who require in-person instruction as part of a blended learning model beginning next month.
These groups include Career and Technical Education (CTE) students at Columbus Downtown High School and the Fort Hayes Career Center and special education students with specific complex needs in grades Pre-K to 12.
As has been my common refrain in previous messages, the one certainty we can count on during this pandemic is great uncertainty. The large number of factors impacting our planning and decision-making change on an almost daily basis. As we learned last week, the most critical of those factors -- our local health data on COVID-19 -- is trending in the wrong direction. Positive cases of COVID are on the rise, and Franklin County is one of 29 counties across the state of Ohio that are now in the "red" or level three of the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System.
While the county alert level is not the sole health data point informing our decision-making, it is a significant factor that adds to the many unknowns about what the future holds for the virus. Positive cases are on the rise no matter where you look -- locally, regionally, and nationally -- which is concerning as flu season hits, the weather turns, and we all spend more time indoors.
Throughout this fall, our challenge has always been how best to achieve our priority of providing an equitable education to all students within the context of the health and safety concerns of a pandemic. It goes without saying, this is not easy.
We must consider the needs of 50,000 students across 110 schools and the more than 9,000 teachers and staff members who serve them -- not to mention the 13,000 charter/non-public students for whom we are required by state law to route transportation for on a daily basis. It is without question that Columbus City Schools has a greater span of influence within Central Ohio when compared to our friends and colleagues of neighboring communities who are making different decisions for their smaller school districts.
As a leader, I know there are factors that I can and cannot control. I cannot put a stop to this pandemic, but I can help mitigate the spread within our community by making decisions that are in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, their families, and our staff. The decision to remain in remote learning was not an easy one, but I believe it is the right decision at the current time for our community.
However, there is more to come beyond just staying remote. For starters, we must challenge ourselves to find a way to bring some specific student groups into school buildings to provide them with the equitable support and resources they need to be successful.
With that said, we still plan to bring in our Career and Technical Education (CTE) students for blended learning at Columbus Downtown High School and the Fort Hayes Career Center beginning November 2. These students have specific in-person requirements for them to achieve the necessary certifications and credentials in their career field.
We have also contacted the families of special education students with specific complex needs about meeting their students’ needs with in-person instruction or staying remote. Based on those discussions, some of these students will start their blended learning model on November 2 (grades PreK to 12) and some will continue with remote learning.
Regardless of what we are able to provide for these two specific blended learning options, we know there are tens of thousands of CCS students who will still remain in a completely remote learning environment. For these students and their families, it is critical that we enhance our remote supports in the coming months. This will include a revamped food service model, increased tech support, leveraging our community partnerships and resources, and seeking continual engagement and feedback from stakeholders.
I know our families have been through a great deal since March. I appreciate their patience and flexibility as we have worked to determine the best path forward. I have heard from many of you over the past several months, and I thank those who have reached out or who have been proactively engaged with our District. For those we may have not heard from yet, we still want to get your feedback and learn about your experiences with remote learning.
We will be conducting an upcoming survey of families, but do not hesitate to reach out in the meantime. I will be joining our Virtual Family Engagement sessions regularly to hear directly from our families and learn more about their needs and challenges.
I am grateful to the CCS teachers and staff for their energy, engagement, and creativity as we have navigated this pandemic together over the past several months and found ways to better serve our community. Though the road has been tough, I am proud to say that we all remain committed to our mission of providing meaningful and equitable educational opportunities to our students.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank all of our dedicated partners who have been weathering the storm every step of the way with us. We don’t know when or how this pandemic will end, but the only way to get through it is together.
Superintendent/CEO, Columbus City Schools
Information By Topic:
Career and Technical Education (CTE) Students
Beginning the week of November 2, we will bring in our Career and Technical Education (CTE) students for blended learning at Columbus Downtown High School and the Fort Hayes Career Center. Students will attend in-person two days per week and continue to learn remotely three days a week.
For our CTE students, in-person learning is critical to skill attainment which is required for certification. For example, for a student to become a certified welder, they must show physical proof they can weld before receiving certification from the American Welding Society. Without certification, students cannot compete for jobs in the workplace or attain the appropriate post-secondary credits.
Students With Complex Needs
In-person instruction and support are critical for our students with the most significant challenges and needs. Our Academic Services team has identified the students who meet the specific requirements and have already reached out to their families. Based on those discussions, some of these students will start their blended learning model on November 2 (grades PreK to 12) and some will continue with remote learning.
Last week, we announced that our updated blended learning plan would begin with optional student and family orientation sessions beginning this week, including virtual and/or 15-minute in-person opportunities. For most of our students and schools, these orientation sessions will be postponed until we are ready to move into the blended learning model district-wide.
For those students who will begin blended learning in November (CTE and Complex Needs), our schools will continue to offer the option of virtual or 15-minute in-person opportunities. Please check with your school to learn more about its orientation schedule and the options you have available.
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
At this time, our fall sports and extracurricular activities will continue on as they have. Our sports teams will continue to follow all OHSAA and Ohio Department of Health guidelines and protocols for safe practices and competitions. Many of our fall teams have wrapped up competition or will in the coming weeks as we begin City League tournaments. We know that winter sports seasons will be here soon, and we will evaluate these in-person activities to make a determination on how best to safely proceed this winter.
CCS Staff Schedules
At this time, all CCS staff will continue to follow their current work schedule on-site until further notice. We are working on a staffing model that will allow teachers and staff flexibility while also ensuring we have coverage across our departments and school buildings in order to best serve our students and their families. More details are forthcoming.
Nutrition and Food Service
We recently sent out a survey to families asking about our Fuel Up! food service program that has been in place since early September. While most respondents appreciate the convenience of the program -- five-day meal packs distributed once per week on Wednesdays -- many families have also asked for a variety of meals or the option of a more traditional menu of items, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
We are finalizing plans to revamp our food service program to address the feedback we have received. Families will continue with the current program until we announce the details of the new program.
Another point of feedback we have received is that families need additional technical support both during the day and in the evening hours. This ranges from Chromebook troubleshooting to resetting passwords. Our Technology team is working on a plan to address this feedback and provide additional support for our students and families.
Learning Extension Centers (LECs)
Learning Extension Centers are a true community partnership effort with many of our city’s non-profit and faith-based organizations that address the educational and social-emotional needs of our students and families during this time of virtual learning.
Learning Extension Centers offer internet access for students to interface with their teachers and virtual assignments while also providing safe, educationally-conducive environments for students whose families may not have the resources at home.
We now have 145 Learning Extension Centers identified across the city -- and the list is growing -- with a wide range of services being provided at different hours throughout the day. To make it easy for families to find the LEC closest to their home, we have created an interactive map at www.ccsoh.us/Page/8685.
Learning Extension Centers Hours
Each LEC is unique to the hosting organization and the needs of the community they serve. Service hours and days of the week vary. Some centers require students to sign up ahead of time, while other centers allow for drop-ins at any time. For more information, go to the District website www.ccsoh.us/Page/8685.
Supports Available for Students at the LECs
In addition to the supports offered by each LEC, several of our local non-profit and social service providers are teaming up to offer additional supports to students and families. Thanks to the generosity of the business community, non-profit partners, and local government entities -- and a significant investment by Mayor Ginther and Columbus City Council -- our students will have the following supports and resources available to them when they go to a LEC:
- A safe, adult-supervised, educationally-conducive environment with reliable broadband internet access for students to virtually interface with their teachers or engage in the CCS Digital Academy.
- Knowledgeable LEC staff to be able to assist students when needed.
- Identified health protocols and PPE to keep every student safe (masks, hand sanitizer).
- Volunteers to assist with tutoring, enrichment activities, and lunch at many of the sites (food provided by Children’s Hunger Alliance).
- Additional technology, such as Chromebooks, hotspots, or printers.
- Access to health/wellness checks in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
- College and career guidance from our higher education access partners at I Know I Can.
Supporting Partners of Learning Extension Centers Include:
All of these supports and resources are possible through a galvanized effort by CCS and a consortium of community and District partners and funders: I Know I Can, City Year, Community in Schools, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Partners Achieving Community Transformation (PACT), The Ohio State University, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Columbus Urban League, Franklin County Commissioners, Franklin County Job and Family Services, City of Columbus/Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Columbus Metropolitan Library, ADAMH Board, ETSS, the Columbus Foundation, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and members of Columbus City Council.
Engagement, Surveys, and Outreach
We want to hear from all of our stakeholders who represent a diverse array of voices across our city -- through engagement sessions, via direct feedback, or from surveys. We will be conducting another survey of our families to gather information on their experiences with remote learning. Earlier this fall, we conducted a Panorama survey of our students and expect to have those results soon. Families should expect an upcoming survey as well.
Virtual Family Engagement Sessions
We continue to host twice-weekly Virtual Family Engagement Sessions on Zoom to hear from families and provide updated information on our virtual learning efforts and the safe transition to blending learning. Videos of the sessions are available online at www.ccsoh.us/Page/8212.
To get additional feedback, we will be offering bi-weekly Virtual Family Engagement Sessions with the Superintendent starting next Thursday, Oct. 29, at 6:00 p.m.
Displaced Students in Shelters
The Engagement team has assigned specific staff members to visit and work with the three homeless shelters, identifying and connecting with CCS families so students stay connected to virtual learning. The shelters have been provided with Chromebook carts to provide temporary laptops for students if they don’t have a District-issued device. The District will also be offering any students experiencing homelessness, transportation options to and from a nearby LEC.
Immigrant and New American Family Outreach
The Engagement team is set to launch an effort with Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS) to provide direct outreach (including home visits) to our immigrant and New American families whose students are at-risk or disengaged from remote learning.
Timeline for Reevaluation
We expect to remain in a mostly-remote learning environment through the end of the first semester (January 15, 2021). Over the next several weeks, we will explore additional specific student groups who would benefit most from blended in-person learning opportunities.
CCS will reevaluate our plans to expand the blended learning model district-wide in December as we prepare for the end of the semester in January.