March 24, 2021
As we pass the one-year anniversary of the state order to close public schools, I’m reminded of the challenging and incredible journey we have traveled together this school year. We have asked you to be patient, flexible and understanding as we have made changes along the way to find the balance between safety and educational effectiveness. Next week, we will be on spring break and when we resume classes on April 5th, we will be making another change. It’s a change that gets us one step closer to normalcy. All students who have not chosen a virtual option will be attending school five days a week after spring break.
I know from our survey information this is a welcome change. We are only able to do this because of our community's adherence to COVID-19 mitigation strategies. For most of the year, Whitehall has been among the leaders in Franklin County in preventing the spread of the virus. We are now in a position where health experts tell us that schools can be fully open if we continue with the mitigation strategies we have in place. I agree with the health experts and remain consistent in following their professional recommendations. Even as I type this letter, only three of our 3,400 students currently have COVID-19 and two of those students haven’t been in our buildings this year. One student is learning virtually and the other attends Eastland/Fairfield Career and Technical School.
The five-day-a-week learning model will require students to be closer to each other than before. During the hybrid model students were kept six feet apart to the greatest extent possible and now we will recommend a social distancing of three feet. This aligns with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ohio Department of Health, and Franklin County Public Health.
Staff members are excited to see their students five days a week and look forward to finishing the year strong. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of our children being in school as much as possible. It is my hope that we will finish the school year without a return to hybrid but that will be dependent on our community’s continued adherence to the COVID-19 mitigation strategies. This is NOT the time to let our guard down. I understand COVID fatigue and the temptation to take more risks as we are able to get outside and enjoy the spring weather. However, the pandemic is not over and we should be as careful about our choices as we were during the November spike. Please continue to monitor your children and take their temperatures before sending them to school. If they are exhibiting signs of COVID-19 we ask that you keep them home and contact the school. We now have a supply of test kits that you can use at home if you suspect your child may have the virus. For more information, contact your school nurse.
Once again, I thank you for your cooperation and please know that your child’s health and safety continues to be our top priority.
Brian D. Hamler