July 30, 2020
Dear Bloom-Carroll Community,
Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to the many parents, community members, and staff members who have communicated their various perspectives and understanding of the challenges we are facing. Your expressions of kindness and understanding of the dynamic situation solidifies why I love living in and working for the students, families, and staff of the Bloom-Carroll Local School District.
A lot of developments have taken place since my last update. On July 23rd, Fairfield County Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Aebi, and the Fairfield Department of Health, released a medical recommendation against the reopening of schools for in-person instruction including the recommendation to cancel all sports, band, and other activities. The Health Commissioner’s position was a recommendation, not a directive or an order. Fairfield County School Districts were put in a difficult position as we worked tirelessly with advisors to understand the intent and impact of the letter on our reopening process.
Within a few days, over fifty Fairfield County medical professionals, including those specializing in infectious diseases, issued a joint statement in response to the FDH recommendation that a more comprehensive approach should be considered as well as the long-term impacts on students if schools were to remain closed.
On Monday, July 27th, the FDH and the Health Commissioner, issued a revised letter stating school districts should follow guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health, incorporate the Ohio COVID-19 Risk Level Guidelines into our reopening plans, and weigh the educational and social-emotional consequences of not reopening schools.
As of July 23rd, the CDC reaffirmed its position that details the importance of in-person learning for children’s educational instruction, social and emotional skill development, safety, and nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, endorse the reopening of schools in a way that maximizes safety, learning, and the well-being of children, teachers, and staff.
The leadership of the Bloom-Carroll Local School District remains committed to making every attempt to open our schools safely. At this time, we will continue our path forward with reopening schools on the Yellow Status Level – our Hybrid Alternating Schedule - outlined in the BCLSD Plan of Action to Reset and Restart Education. However, we will be making a few changes to our plan and opening dates due to evolving conditions. To ensure our staff is fully prepared for students, we will be making a minor adjustment to the first student days. Board policy authorizes the Superintendent to close or delay the opening of schools in circumstances where the Superintendent determines a closure, dismissal or delay is necessary. In order to appropriately prepare our staff for the many changes and challenges to our school day, we will be providing more preparation and professional development time for staff on Thursday, August 20th and Friday, August 21st. Students in Group 1, whose last name begins with the letter A-K, will now attend in-person instruction beginning Monday, August 24th. Students in Group 2, whose last name begins with the letters L-Z will now attend in-person instruction beginning Tuesday, August 25th. Group 1 will attend in-person instruction on Mondays, Wednesdays, and scheduled Fridays. Group 2 will attend in-person instruction on Tuesday, Thursday, and scheduled Fridays. Please review the Yellow Status Alternating Schedule for 20-21. There are not any additional changes to the kindergarten schedule or start dates.
Our reopening plan has always required staff to wear face masks; that requirement remains unchanged. However, all students will now be required to wear face masks unless they are unable to do so for health or developmental reasons. Medical documentation may be required unless the District has been previously made aware of a health or developmental issue. Families will be responsible for providing students with a face mask on the bus and in the school buildings. Please begin working with your child now to practice mask-wearing and determine which style of mask will be most comfortable. Face masks may be removed when eating, exercising with physical distancing of six feet between persons, or outdoors where physical distancing can be achieved. We will also make efforts to provide breaks during the day. Please read our plan for more information pertaining to face mask requirements.
I understand this change will not be supported by all. Our schools cannot become the battleground for political discourse over this pandemic and how to best slow the spread of the virus. We must come together and set aside political opinions in a collective effort to keep our schools open at some level and to keep our staff members safe. If our schools are going to be open for in-person instruction, then we must all make some sacrifices. If we do not have a healthy staff, then we cannot have in-person schooling. I have listened to our teachers and many parents; to be direct, there is simply not a consensus among any of them. At this time, local, state, and federal health organizations support the use of face masks to slow the spread of the virus. If masks can help keep our schools open, then please understand the position the District is taking.
In addition, our District is asking for a commitment from our students, parents, and staff members to do their part to help keep our schools safe by signing the Bulldog Pledge which will be available in FinalForms. By following the recommendations of the CDC and the health department, we can reduce illness in our schools. Each parent, student, and staff member must do their part. We are asking for your commitment to follow the district’s guidelines and policies and join other students, parents, staff, and community members in their efforts to keep our schools safe and students healthy.
As a reminder, we are offering a fully online student-led curriculum, Virtual Learning Academy (VLA), for those uncomfortable sending their child to school.
We have all learned how vulnerable decisions about instructional status levels can be. As I have said numerous times over the past few months – continue to stay flexible and have a family plan for every status level found in our restart plan. I am confident we will find ourselves operating under all of them – Red, Orange, Yellow, and Green – at various times during the 20-21 school year.
As always, we will keep you updated with any changes. Additional back to school information including information about open houses, requirements for attending back to school events, schedules, class lists, and supply lists will be shared soon. Most of this information will be shared electronically because of the constant changes taking place.
Thank you for supporting our school district as we work to reopen our schools and provide activities for our students under difficult circumstances.