After operating under a hybrid model since the school year’s start, Wellston City Schools (WCS) Superintendent Karen Boch recently announced that students would be moving to in-person instruction five days a week beginning Monday, Sept. 21. What’s more, she also told Board of Education members the district’s reopening plan would no longer coincide with the state’s Public Health Advisory System moving forward.

“After learning more in-depth about the Ohio Public Health Advisory System and being advised that we really shouldn’t use that system to link our days of school with because there are so many variables involved with it, I have taken that part out of the plan,” Boch told the Board during the Monday night, Sept. 14 meeting. “When you learn something new, you try and make assessments.”

For a bit of background regarding the initial WCS reopening plan, during a special Board meeting held July 28, Boch told board members that she took the risk levels established in Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System, which assigns each of Ohio’s 88 counties a color, indicating the severity of the virus’s spread, and correlated it to the district’s educational delivery continuum. At that time, a Level 1 (Yellow) classification for the county represented in-person learning five days a week, Level 2 (Orange) was a hybrid or blended model with 50 percent in-person and 50 percent remote learning, Level 3 (Red) would have involved limited in-person learning activities for prioritized groups and remote learning for all other students, and Level 4 (Purple) would have been the most restrictive model in which all students would participate in remote learning.

Since the school year kicked off on Aug. 24, Wellston students not opting into online-only instruction have been attending class two days a week according to the first letter of their last names (A-L Mondays and Tuesdays, M-Z Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays online for all).

Moving forward, Boch said Monday night that, though it’s still not an exact science, the district would be considering things like the number of COVID-19 cases in Jackson County, the number of sustained new cases, cases in congregate settings versus non-congregate settings, and the number of cases in the school district itself when deciding if future changes to the plan are necessary.

“Three weeks ago, there were six reported cases in Wellston,” Boch said. “In the last two weeks, there has been zero. So, with that being said, I’d like for us to go full-time beginning Sept. 21.”

Boch also gave thanks to Wellston Teachers Association President Belinda Dixon in taking on “a huge role” in trying to organize all WCS students learning virtually. She said these students have been broken down into two groups -- grades 6-12 in one group and K-5 in the other. Boch explained any bugs in the system are being worked out slowly, but surely.

Regarding the most recent Ohio Department of Health order, Boch told Board members the district is now required to establish a reporting system for any and all new COVID-19 cases. Overall, she said WCS has been working closely with the Jackson County Health Department and that this new requirement simply represents some added checks and balances.

“If we were to have a positive case in WCS, which we know is going to happen at some point, we are, within 24 hours of learning about the student or staff member, required to let people know,” Boch explained.

This information, she said, would be delivered via email and would likewise be posted to the district’s website at wcs.K12.oh.us under a newly installed dashboard. The numbers on said dashboard are currently zero across the board.

“We want it to stay that way, but that’s probably not realistic,” Boch said.

In Other News

* Boch said the Wellston Community Track is nearing completion. She stated crews had started installing the rubber surface, which will likely take approximately two weeks to finish. Once that is complete, Boch said a final walk-through would be conducted.

* Updates were given for two upcoming construction projects. The first, Boch said, pertains to the entrance at Bundy Elementary, which is expected to cost between $72,000 and $75,000 and which is expected to last approximately three months. The second project involves work at the district’s bus garage, which is expected to last four to six weeks and carry a price tag of $30,000 to $40,000.