A lot of end of school year business on the agenda led to a long night, but School Calendar and Communication were key discussions

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (June 24, 2020) — A lot of routine end of year school business had to be completed during the Loveland City School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 23, but communication and the calendar for the new school year were important topics addressed by the board.

Dr. Kathryn Lorenz, Loveland City School Distric Board of Education President (FILE)

Board president, Kathryn Lorenz explained part of the reason for the lengthy session was the number of items on the agenda, but helping the two new board members understand the issues consumes time too. Both Kevin Dougherty and Eric Schwetschenau are being very thorough in asking questions to make well informed decisions on all matters before the board. The board and administration is making a conscientious effort to be sure they get all the information they need to make “reasoned, measured, and intelligent decisions” according to Lorenz.

“Things are being discussed and explained,” said Lorenz. “It’s taking a little longer because we have new people who are being brought up to speed.”

That is only part of the reason for a lengthier meeting than might be usual. It is not unusual for board meetings to last longer when important matters such as everything surrounding plans to return to school for the coming year with COVID-19 guidelines still unclear have to be addressed.

Communication, not only with staff, teachers, parents and students, but also with the community as a whole, was another important topic of discussion last evening. The board is trying to determine how to be sure the community understands what they are doing and is getting enough information.

 “All of these things,” Lorenz said are important part of communication. “We had a fairly long discussion about different things around communication. We are trying to make sure we have the communication plan and people in place to make sure our constituents, our school, students, parents and teachers know what is happening in school buildings and what is happening in the district.”

Loveland School Board during livestream video meeting June 23, 2020  l-r top row: Board President Dr. Kathryn Lorenz, LCSD Superintendent Dr. Amy Crouse, LCSD Treasurer/CFO Kevin Hawley and l-r middle row Board members Mrs. Eileeen Washburn and Kevin Dougherty,Board Vice President Michele Pettit and bottom row center board membr Dr. Eric Schwetschenau  (Chuck Gibson)

The board discussion on communications also centered on ensuring communication goes out to the entire community, and all the taxpayers. Lorenz wants the community to know they are working diligently on communication. Maybe the biggest topic discussed Tuesday evening was how Loveland will open schools in the fall. There is not a lot to report with certainty right now.

“We are waiting for final guidelines or final information from the Governor’s office,” said Lorenz. “And the Hamilton County Public Health Department is waiting for those guidelines before they publish their guidelines.”

Loveland Schools must abide by The Hamilton County Public Health department guidelines. The Loveland Schools return to school models and survey was due last night and offered some insight for discussion by the board.

“We got snippets of what is happening in that survey,” Lorenz said. “We received tremendous response. Sometimes you send surveys and you get just a few responses, not enough to make it legitimate, but we got tremendous response to this survey; very helpful response.”

Lorenz indicated there was a lot of thoughtful response about what people are thinking about going back to school. She estimated more than 1,800 surveys responses were received representing approximately 3,600 students of the 4,500-4,600 Loveland School student population.

“We got responses concerning about 3,600 out of 4,600 children,” she said, “which, to me, is a great response.”

The board discussed all of the work being done to get schools opened in the fall. Lorenz says it is the information being gathered, work being done by the administration and staff, to determine what safety guidelines and regulations will be, and how to meet them to get schools open. Again, everything is contingent upon the guidelines from the State of Ohio and ultimately Hamilton County Public Health when those guidelines are finally issued. It goes beyond the students, staff, classroom; it reaches to the grounds, the buildings, and everything for the safety of all when school reopens.

Then there is the consideration of what the parents want and if they are ready to send their children back into the schools. Initial responses from the survey show a vast majority of the parents, students, teachers and staff want to get back to teaching in-person, in the buildings, in the classroom, face-to-face. Only about 10-percent of those responding to the school survey, are not ready to send their children back to school this fall. Again, this is a preliminary survey with preliminary models for return to school options. No final plan has been presented for approval by the LCSD Board of Education. Parents do not have to commit to a plan for their child until August.

“Everyone is anxious to get kids back to school,” Lorenz said. “Everyone understands students need to be with other students; they need to be with their teachers. To me that’s the big take away.”

The question remains what form that will take once guidelines and regulations are in place. Getting back to in-person classroom teaching seems to be the prevailing desire and thinking within the Loveland School District both for school administration and student families. One specific action step was taken by the board in planning for the return to school for the upcoming year. The board approved a calendar change which will move the start of the school year back a week.

Click here to access the livestream video for the June 23, Board Meeting

Here is the News Release from Loveland Schools – Susanne Quigley, Chief Information Officer:

Loveland Board of Education Approves

Calendar Change for 2020-2021

Students will start a week later than planned in August

Dr. Amy Crouse, Superintendent, Loveland City School District (FILE) 

Last evening, the Loveland City School District Board of Education approved a calendar change for the 2020-2021 school year to allow COVID-19-related health and safety training for staff to take place before the students return. School would have started on August 19, but is now set to begin for students a week later, on Wednesday, August 26. The calendar for the remainder of the year is unchanged.

“We are continuing to work on plans for the reopening of school in the fall,” said Superintendent Dr. Amy Crouse. “State officials are expected to release the guidance for schools this week. We will prioritize the safety of students and staff, utilize the feedback we have received from families, make the necessary adjustments to our plans, and work closely with Hamilton County Public Health to ensure those plans are in line with the guidance.” 

The district surveyed parents on whether they – with the information that is available today – would choose an in-person or online model of school in the fall. Nearly 1,900 responses were received from families, representing well over 3,000 children in Kindergarten through 12th grade. 

“The in-person model can be adjusted to a half-capacity and blended learning model if necessary,” said Crouse. “On the days students are not physically in school, they will be engaged in remote learning. If the school buildings have to close for health or safety reasons, all students will engage in remote learning. The online learning model means students receive only online instruction in their core courses while having limited availability to electives and specials.”

Included in the discussion on returning to school at the Tuesday board business meeting was the potential of delaying the daily start time for Loveland High School students. The delayed start would allow students more time to get to school, a research-based decision for adolescent sleep requirements that was made feasible by the removal of high school bus transportation.

The board also approved additional increases in pay-to-participate fees for athletics and other activities at Loveland High School and Middle School due to the failed operating levy on the March ballot. The fee for each high school sport in 2020-21 will be $310. Fees, which were $110 for all sports with the exception of football and lacrosse in 2019-20, were initially raised to $175 as a result of budget cuts earlier in the year. Middle school sports will each cost the participants $265. Additional fees ranging from $10 to $50 will apply to current fees for fine arts activities, such as drama, band, and show choir.