Cincinnati Public School parents grappling with education options in pandemic

CINCINNATI — As the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education prepares to meet and discuss the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents expressed frustration about the options currently available for their children.

CPS is currently offering a hybrid model or the option to do fully remote instruction through the Digital Academy, which parents both in favor of remote learning and parents in favor of full-time classroom models have complained is lacking. Parents who want to send their children to in-person school for all five days said they feel these options don’t fully serve their children the best, and worry about kids falling behind.

“I want them back for the education aspect,” said Jen Salstrom, a CPS parent. “I really fear that they’re falling behind when they’re doing the hybrid education and I’m also concerned that socially this is impacting them. It’s adding to children having more anxiety, more depression.”

CPS said it is considering the perspective of all families and has used surveys to try and get feedback on potential future plans. The district said it is also looking into creating specific virtual programs at individual schools, but haven’t yet determined if the option is possible.

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“I want my child in five days a week,” said Leah Kattus, a CPS parent. “He wants to be in five days a week. Enough to where he is asking us to move.”

Kattus said a family friend actually did move, from CPS to Lebanon to ensure their child would be back in school full-time. She said she’s concerned her child isn’t getting the same level of education that he would in a full-time in-class setting.

Parents said without a plan to move back to in-person classes five days a week in the future, they’re facing tough decisions including whether to move to a new district or send kids to private schools.

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“Where does the education divide begin?” said Salstrom. “Because the parents who have resources to send them to private may do so. The parents who don’t have the resources are forced to deal with what they have.”

Salstrom said her kids aren’t as engaged or curious about learning from their at-home setting, and are distracted by being home, where they’re tempted to watch TV or play video games.

CPS said it has been closely monitoring coronavirus statistics and information locally, which have shown rising rates of infection, spread and hospitalization through October. The district said it is working from statistics to help guide its decisions to change or adjust the learning models available.

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Cincinnati Public Schools’ full statement on learning opportunities is below:

We appreciate the perspective of all families and have been listening intently to their questions and concerns. Our surveys to parents and guardians have consistently indicated that about half are comfortable with some level of in-person learning and the other half are less, or not at all, comfortable. For families who are not comfortable or able to send their children for periods of in-person learning, Cincinnati Digital Academy continues to be the best choice.

However, we have explored the viability of a distance learning option that would allow students to stay at their current school. Most recently, we sent a commitment form to parents and guardians to understand interest-level by school and across the district. As we’ve shared previously, we need a minimum number of students (approximately 8,700) to commit to this option for it to work from a technology standpoint. It would also require a maximum of 25% of teachers to stream at any given time, so in addition to the technology requirements, there are staffing and scheduling considerations. We plan to provide an update at the board meeting this afternoon.

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