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Hybrid students will return to “full-in” learning March 15

The Dublin City Schools Board of Education passed a resolution at a special meeting this evening, returning the District to “full-in” in person learning mode effective March 15 for students currently in hybrid. You can read the resolution at this link.

Remote Learning Academy students will stay in RLA for the remainder of the school year.

The return to full-in, in person learning coincides with two weeks passing since our staff received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and also provides  two weeks before spring break to address any challenges that may arise. 

Additionally, COVID-19 data is trending downward at the state and local levels. Throughout the pandemic, there has been little evidence that COVID-19 spread takes place in schools. The majority of cases we have seen in schools have originated from community spread outside of school. 

The mitigation steps taken by students and staff have proven effective. According to many of the local physicians serving on our medical committees, wearing masks properly is the #1 mitigating factor to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Proper and faithful hand hygiene, social distancing to the best extent possible, building cleaning and contact tracing are also effective mitigators of spread. These mitigation steps will continue to be practiced.

We have posted Frequently Asked Questions on our website and you can read a statement prepared by some of the doctors serving on the District’s data and metrics committee at this link

Sincerely,

Dublin City Schools

PLEASE NOTE: 

Wednesdays at the high school level- Workshop Wednesdays will remain in place at the high school level. This means high school students may not be required to attend in-person class on Wednesdays to allow our teaching staff to have direct contact with high school Remote Learning Academy students. Additionally, all students should be available on Wednesdays if requested by their teacher to receive individual/small group help, schedule conferences, and catch-up on their work. Required state and/or federal standardized tests may be administered on Wednesdays this spring in order to maximize in-person learning opportunities. If you have any questions about Workshop Wednesdays, please contact your high school administrator. 

Statement read by local physicians at March 2 Board meeting

March 2, 2021

Dear Members of the Board, Dr. Hoadley, Dublin City Schools Staff and Teachers, Students, and all members of the Dublin community,

We are representatives of the COVID Data and Metrics Committee, comprised of physicians and researchers from numerous healthcare systems, and from pediatric and adult medical practices. All of us are parents and live within the district. Our committee was formed in the summer of 2020, and we were tasked with helping the District identify, track, and analyze indicators that would be used by the Board of Education in deciding the optimal mode of learning during the pandemic.

We want to thank the Dublin community for all the work and sacrifice that each of you have made over the past year. Every student, parent, teacher, school staff member, and each member of our community has been affected at home, at school, and in the workplace.

The Board of Education and Dr. Hoadley have consistently indicated to our group, and to the Dublin community, the desire for Dublin City Schools to return to full, in person learning as soon as it is safely possible. As a committee, we have met weekly with members of the Board, Dr. Hoadley and other district administrators, as well as school nurses and a representative from the Dublin Education Association. This fall we developed the District Decision Making Tool to help determine and guide transitions in mode of learning. Since that time, there has been a tremendous amount of new knowledge, science, and expert health opinions. We have incorporated all these factors into our regular and deliberate analysis.

We have thoroughly reviewed available published scientific studies on the transmission of COVID within schools, guidance from the CDC other professional societies, as well as expert opinion from local, state, and national public health organizations and leaders. Furthermore, each week we review the available data on COVID case rates and testing positivity within our community.

We also carefully monitor the number of confirmed cases and quarantines among DCS students and staff, absentee rates, and the effects that COVID may have on specific buildings or school levels. Our committee also considers the effects of remote learning on student academic performance, mental health, and other measures of overall well-being.

We are confident that Dublin Schools data demonstrate that, during the 2020-21 school year so far, there has been very little COVID transmission from student to student, student to staff, or staff to staff. In fact, the numbers have shown that potential or confirmed cases of acquisition of COVID are much more likely to have occurred in the community or at home. This is very consistent with published studies from the CDC and other large research groups, as well as available data from the state of Ohio. As a specific example of how low rates of transmission in school settings have changed policy, over the last two months the state of Ohio, Franklin County, and DCS have implemented “modified quarantines,” where students can continue to come to school to learn despite an in-school setting COVID exposure. Furthermore, several public school districts here in central Ohio and elsewhere have been engaged in full in person learning and have not experienced spikes in COVID rates.

COVID mitigation strategies within schools are essential for safe and successful in person learning. Dublin City Schools has designed and implemented numerous protocols and policies to focus on five key mitigation strategies: (1) Mask wearing, (2) Hand hygiene, (3) Social Distancing, (4) Contact Tracing, and (5) Cleaning and disinfecting. The district has spent considerable time, focus and energy to improve in each of these five areas.
Our data committee helped design and implement a survey of teachers and school building administrators, which has highlighted areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. This feedback from “frontline” educators has been invaluable, and the district has implemented numerous measures to make mitigation successful. We believe that the District’s success in mitigation strategies are the key reason why COVID transmission in schools have been so low. This highlights the outstanding work the that District, each school building, every teacher, every custodian, every bus driver, and every student has done in adhering to key mitigation strategies to minimize spread.
In addition, the Dublin community has played a vital role in mitigation by mask wearing, social distancing, and making choices that have helped minimize the spread of infection. The ability to even consider a move forward in mode of learning would not be possible without the sacrifices that all of us have made.

Parents and students will need to continue to emphasize and reinforce techniques for proper and complete masking. We all need to continue to be vigilant outside of school to limit community spread. This will help minimize the risk of re-introducing COVID into our schools.
The development of highly effective COVID vaccines has clearly been a tremendous benefit in the fight against COVID. All DCS teachers and staff have now had the opportunity to receive their 2nd vaccine. Published vaccine study results indicate that our “essential” DCS school educators and staff are upwards of 94% protected from the acquisition of COVID in the upcoming months. We encourage all members of the community to get vaccinated when possible.

We recognize and certainly acknowledge that full, in-person learning means that strict 6 feet of social distancing is not possible in the classroom. Many members of the community are likely concerned by lowering the minimally acceptable social distance, particularly in context of the recent CDC recommendations of “physical distancing of 6 feet or more to the greatest extent possible.” While 6 feet social distancing is considered the “gold standard” and numerous studies have demonstrated the safety of learning at 6 feet, no study has demonstrated that there is higher risk when physical distancing is lowered within a classroom of fully masked students and teachers maintaining a high level of focus on other key factors of mitigation. It should be noted that CDC guidelines, as well as published scientific papers, expert opinion, and experience in classrooms in Ohio, the US and elsewhere all point to the key role mitigation strategies can make learning safe at distances less than 6 feet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools in January. In this document, the AAP “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with a goal of having students present in school.” On physical distancing measures, the AAP states “schools should weigh the benefits of strict adherence to a 6-feet spacing rule between students with the potential downside if remote learning is the only alternative.”

We believe that there is strong benefit to student and overall community well-being with fully live, in-person learning. While every effort needs to continue to be made to prevent COVID spread, a transition to live learning is anticipated to have positive effects on academic performance and the mental health of our children. There is evidence of detrimental short- and long-term consequences for students receiving remote or limited live learning.
Taken together, these trends and developments have led the Data Committee to believe that the district can reasonably advance to full, in-person mode of learning effective March 15th. This endorsement is conditional upon continued stability in Dublin and central Ohio COVID rates. It is also based the continued efforts of the district to adhere to and continuously optimize COVID mitigation strategies.

If the Board of Education elects to move into full live learning, the Data Committee will continue our weekly role in the careful and deliberate analysis of local and community COVID transmission trends, rates of student and teacher absenteeism, and analysis of mitigation strategies. These are, and will continue to be, primary factors in guiding our recommendations. In addition, we will continue to closely monitor trends in key secondary factors including rates and effects of quarantines, district operations issues, as well as updates and changes in expert opinion in local and National expert opinion, among others. New variant strains of COVID may become more prevalent in our community and could present new challenges. If the COVID situation in the schools or community changes for the worse, we will not hesitate to recommend a transition back into hybrid learning.

We would like to acknowledge many others whose hard work have made a transition to full learning possible. These include all DCS teachers, staff, building administrators, and the districts other volunteer medical committees. The protocol committee is working hand in hand with district leaders to design and implement effective models for infection control. Likewise, the mental health, education, and athletic committees have all done tremendous work in helping to guide the safety of hybrid education and extracurricular activities. Finally, the district’s school nurses should be acknowledged and thanked for the essential role in contact tracing, and in guiding ill students, families, and staff.

We thank you for this opportunity to participate in the meeting tonight, and we are happy to try to address questions or concerns from the Board.

Sincerely,

Shawn Aylward, MD
Tim Haab, PhD
Steve Kirkby, MD
Matt Kunar, DO
Wissam Sabbagh, MD
Naveen Singri, MD
Kristin Thompson, MD