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Lisbon planning in-person classes

LISBON — The Lisbon school district intends to fully resume in-person classes when the new school year starts on Aug. 24, but officials want to hear from parents before the plan is completed.

Superintendent Joseph Siefke announced at Wednesday’s school board meeting they will be holding a public work session from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The work session will be in the high school auditorium so there is enough room for social distancing. Besides Siefke and board members, school administrators and some staff from each the elementary and middle/high schools will be in attendance to take questions.

Siefke said a draft plan is nearly complete, “but I just want some more input” before finalizing the plan, which he hopes to make public by the end of July.

Like every district in Columbiana County, Lisbon has been developing three different plans for the upcoming school year. Siefke said he and other superintendents in the county have been meeting monthly on the subject, and all intend to start the year with in-person classes using general guidelines being crafted in conjunction with the county Educational Service Center.

The other option is for students to remain home and continue with complete online instruction, which is what occurred when Gov. Mike DeWine closed schools in mid March to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. A third plan would be a combination of in-school classes and online instruction, but Siefke said Lisbon is no longer considering that as an option because of the disruption that causes for working parents.

“I believe if you can be in school for two days (per week) you can be in school for five days,” he said.

Siefke said Youngstown schools intend to continue teaching its student remotely, and he understands why because large urban districts have 5,000 students to think about.

“How are you going to social distance them? We have 500 students, so it’s not as big a problem for us to social distance,” he said.

Of the 216 Lisbon parents who responded to a survey, 82 percent preferred their children returning to the classroom instead of continuing to learn online from home.

To complete the plan, Siefke said they must also know what households intends to send their children to school since parents have the option of continuing to have them remain home and learn entirely online, and if they plan on riding the bus. He said they need to know this for configuring classrooms while maintaining social distancing as much as possible.

Siefke said they would be further along with their plan but they had to wait for DeWine to issue state guidelines for reopening schools, which did not happen until last week.

“We were waiting to hear what DeWine had to say to see if he was going to throw us a curveball, but he didn’t. He is basically leaving it up to each school district,” Siefke said.

The superintendents are drafting their reopening plans in consultation with county Health Commissioner Wes Vins. “His leadership has been invaluable,” Siefke said.

Under DeWine’s four-color COVID alert system instituted last week, the county is at Alert Level 1, or yellow, which is the lowest. If that were to change in a drastic way, Siefke said it would be up to Vins whether local schools continued with in-classroom instruction or resumed remote learning.

“I would be remiss not to follow his recommendations,” Siefke said, adding he trusts Vins’ judgment. “He’s not going to shut down the entire county if there is an outbreak in another part of the county.”

The issues to be discussed at the work session include, among other things, face coverings, good hygiene, sanitizing the building, exposure protocol, transportation and food service.

As for sports, Siefke said they have yet to be told whether football teams will be allowed to play this season, and board member Marti Grimm said she heard just that day no spectators will be allowed.

“That’s a big concern” because of the financial fallout for the athletic department that will result from not being able to sell tickets, Siefke said. Student organizations that operate the concession stands and sell other items at football games will also suffer.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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