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District adopts new learning mode decision tool

A tool that will decide whether the district conducts all in-person, hybrid or remote learning over the course of the year was adopted by the Board of Education in a meeting Tuesday Nov. 17. 

Director of Operations Harley Williams explained the new learning mode decision tool determines what type of learning the district will conduct: remote, hybrid or all-in. 

The learning mode tool is designed in the format of a graph with different columns titled Ohio Public Health Advisory System for Franklin County, Bexley COVID-19 Analytics and Targeted Surveillance, and Bexley City Schools positive cases. The OPHAS determines what “level” the county is in, with yellow being the least dangerous, orange and red being more dangerous, and purple being the most dangerous. 

CATS is a surveillance system that collects specific data from multiple sources about how COVID-19 is affecting the nation, state and districts to send to the school for analysis and helps schools and public health work together to make data-informed decisions about learning modality by monitoring absences among students and staff due to illness and other parameters, Williams said. 

Since the beginning of the year, CATS has distributed useful information to help the school get a better understanding of the current situation, Williams explained. In addition, he said now that more information is known about the virus and how it is affecting the community, there is more data to look at, and the district is better suited to make a more informed decision.

The graph has separate columns for high school/middle school and elementary school because elementary school students are less likely to be receivers and transmitters of the virus, Williams explained. There are only a couple of scenarios in the graph where the high school and middle school learning mode does not correspond to the elementary school, but when the graph was first made there were a lot more, Williams said.

The tool was designed by a task force of Bexley parents, including epidemiologists Abby Norris, Allison Norris and Ted Brasky, along with sports medicine physician James MacDonald and pediatrician Mary Lin Niland, he said.

“They all were so respectful and professional throughout the whole process,” Williams said, “It was impressive to watch.”

Based on the graph, the beginning of the school year would have put the district in a hybrid learning mode, but there were a lot of unknowns at the time and the school was not ready to create a safe and organized environment for students, so they proceeded with remote learning at the start of first semester, he said.

“At the beginning of the school year, I was really worried about whether or not we should be in school,” Williams explained. “I had a lot of trepidation about it.”

Senior Simon Bernstein said that he is concerned about some scenarios in the graph, specifically a scenario in which high school, middle school and elementary school students may go to all-in person learning even if the OPHAS has the county on a level red. 

“I do think there are a significant amount of kids who are in quarantine, and I don’t feel it is necessary to send the other students to school because it will just put them at a higher risk,” Bernstein said.

Williams said he understands that people may question this decision, but it is possible the district could be all-in on a level red as long as everyone continues doing their part social distancing and wearing masks in the school.

“Since we came back September 21, we haven’t had one time where someone has given the virus to someone else at school,” Williams said.

The intent of the graph was not to create if/then scenarios because the data is fluctuating every day and it is hard to look into the future and determine if it will be safe enough to attend school, he explained. The high school, middle school and elementary school are frequently being monitored due to the constant fluctuations, Williams added. He said that this is an emotional situation for the community, and he respects everyone’s opinions as this task force is doing their best to create the safest environment for the community.

“I tip my hat to the students,” Williams said, “I tip my hat to the community and the staff for trusting in the plan and implementing the plan with fidelity.”

Nick Eddy
Nick Eddy is a senior at Bexley High School and backpage editor of The Torch. Outside of Torch, he is the captain of the soccer team, runs track, and loves to do graphic design.