Dec 11, 2020

Important Message from Pickerington Schools

Important Message image

Dear Parents,

As you are aware, this school year has presented some unique challenges for everyone and we thank you for your support and patience. We continue to field questions regarding our data and remaining in the hybrid model and wanted to provide you with some information to hopefully clarify why some decisions have been made.

Although we have made great strides in our virtual instruction, we are aware that many students struggle educationally when they do not have on-going access to their teachers. The routine of in-person instruction and physical attendance at school provides continuity and academic support for students, as well as tremendous social and emotional benefits that are difficult to replicate in an all-virtual setting. We believe that nothing can replace the impact that teachers make on students when they are face to face.

We clearly understand that not everyone agrees with the decision to remain hybrid. However, we are implementing the preference of the community where 80% of our families chose hybrid over virtual learning in August. Additionally, in late October, K-6 parents had the option to choose to move their children from the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) to the hybrid model, and there were 186 requests to switch to hybrid learning. Then in November, K-6 parents were offered the chance to move their student(s) to VLA from the hybrid model. There were 34 requests to switch to the VLA.

We have also heard concerns about unfilled teacher absences which, in some cases, resulted in students being sent to larger spaces to learn. However, PLSD’s employee absentee rate was actually higher during last school year than it has been so far during the 2020-21 school year. The following information provides a comparison of the two years.

During the 2019-20 school year, “Illness” was listed as the reason for an employee absence 56% of the time (which is 3% higher than the Ohio average). The category of “Other Absences” was not listed as a main absence reason during the 2019-20 SY. By comparison, so far for the 2020-21 school year (July-October), “Illness” accounts for 44% of employee absences (which is 9% higher than the Ohio average). But the category of “Other Absences” (which covers the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provisions of “Extended Paid Sick Leave” and “Extended Family Medical Leave”) accounts for 25% of the average number of days that an employee is missing per month. Despite this increase in “Other Absences,” so far for the 2020-21 school year through October 2020, PLSD employees have missed fewer days per employee per month than for the same time period as last year. It is also notable to point out that during the 2020-21 school year, most of the staff absences occur on Mondays and Fridays.

The Franklin County Board of Health, and the Ohio Department of Health in their latest executive order, have recommended that schools remain in their current instructional models even when the county moves to red or purple on their public health advisory system. In addition, the district has widely shared the variables that go into decision making as they pertain to transitions between instructional models on our COVID-19 Dashboard (pickerington.k12.oh.us/covid-19-dashboard). The criteria to change instructional models may vary for each building and we do not have a hard and fast number for any particular factor to require us to shift.  The internal data that we consider addresses factors such as:

  1. How the virus is impacting students as measured by the percentage in quarantine or testing positive;
  2. How the virus is impacting staff as measured by the percentage in quarantine or testing positive;
  3. The difficulty in getting subs for absent teachers, parapros and duty aides.

From the latest week of dashboard data, the student impact rate is still only 1.86%. For staff, it is 2.40%. Across all types of absences across the district, our teacher/parapro/duty aide absentee rate is 10.49%. The raw data can be found at:  

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1StqAiyFLMQzjoGnWmAtO5boPERNsr7DMjKyGKZaiX5w/edit#gid=285118119

Although we understand that the virus is spreading in our community, it has only been within the last week that we have had a confirmed case of in-school, student-to-student transmission. And, there have been no confirmed cases of student-to-teacher or teacher-to-student transmission. 

In closing, our data supports that our safety protocols are working. We have maintained a high duty of care in meeting the educational needs of our students and community. Closing schools to go to an all-virtual environment can be a highly disruptive step in that process, and it is one that must only be taken when the preponderance of evidence shows that the risks of in-person classes vastly outweigh the merits. We believe our current hybrid model is allowing us to meet the objectives of providing the highest possible quality education given the circumstances, and we are able to do it by preserving the health and safety of our students and staff to the maximum extent practicable. Should that change, based on the data and the other noted factors, we will act appropriately.