Upper Arlington City Schools News Article

Upper Arlington Schools Safe at School Plan for ESSER III

Upper Arlington Schools Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan
Pursuant to Federal American Rescue Plan Act, Section 2001(i)

Introduction and Background

In March 2021 President Biden signed the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, Public Law 117-2, into law. The ARP Act provides an additional $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) to states and school districts to help safely reopen, sustain the safe operation of schools, and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s students. As with the previous ESSER funds available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), the purpose of the additional funding is to support local educational agencies (LEAs) in preparing for and responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on educators, students, and families.

Section 2001(i)(1) of the ARP Act requires each LEA that receives ARP ESSER funds to develop and make publicly available on the LEA’s website, no later than 30 days after receiving ARP ESSER funds, a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools (Safe Return Plan). A Safe Return Plan is required of all fund recipients, including those that have already returned to in-person instruction. Section 2001(i)(2) of the ARP Act further requires that the LEA seek public comment on the Safe Return Plan and take those comments into account in finalization of the Safe Return Plan. Under the interim final requirements published in Volume 86, No. 76 of the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), an LEA must periodically, but no less frequently than every six months through September 30, 2023, review and, as appropriate, revise its Safe Return Plan.

Return to In-Person Learning

The mission of the Upper Arlington Schools is to challenge and support every student, every step of the way. The 2019-2024 Strategic Plan supports this mission, identifying two priorities — whole learning and well-being — with a foundation of continuous improvement driving everything the district does. This strategic plan underscores the district’s long-standing commitment to providing the highest quality of education for the students of this community.

Upper Arlington Schools students returned to a full in-person learning pathway option on March 1, 2021, with protocols in place to follow local, state and federal health orders and guidance. By returning to in-person learning, students were able to learn and reconnect safely, face to face, in school. 

The Upper Arlington Board of Education began the 2021-2022 school year on Wednesday, August 18 with students learning in person, five days a week, with appropriate mitigation strategies in place.

Continuity of Learning - Summer 2021 

Through a variety of programming options for the summer of 2021, students have been able to boost their core academic skills, receive any needed support, and continue to engage in building relationships with peers and teachers.

Beginning in June of 2021, Upper Arlington Schools expanded access to our Summer Academy and Summer Reading programs by making them free of charge to all students, and significantly adding access to the number of qualifying students to these existing programs. 

Upper Arlington Schools also partnered with peer districts in the area, including Dublin, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Westerville and Worthington, to begin discussing what academic recovery needed to look like in our schools. Our shared priorities included a focus not only on academics but also on the mental health of our students and staff.

This work inspired the launch of the Upper Arlington Schools Summer BRIDGE to Academic Achievement and Well-being in June of 2021. This additional summer programming supported an additional 500+ students. 

Throughout the summer of 2021, students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are receiving Covid impact hours and students who qualified for Extended School Year (ESY) are receiving those services as well. Transportation and lunches are provided to any student in these programs, free of charge.

Continuity of Learning - 2021-2022 school year and beyond

As Upper Arlington Schools approaches the upcoming school year, the district will be collaboratively designing academic and well-being support options that will address student needs before, during and after school hours. Real-time classroom data will be used to match academic supports with students throughout the school year. 

With the implementation of the new Multiple Tier System of Supports (MTSS) model beginning in August 2021, Upper Arlington Schools will build on students’ strengths and move away from a “deficit only” model of intervention and gap closing. We believe in meeting students where they are, not where we think they should be. 

Along with the MTSS model, our district is implementing a new data warehouse that will help position us to have success plans for each learner in our district, not just graduation plans for high school students. 

We are also in the process of implementing a structured literacy approach, which will specifically support rising kindergarten and first-graders with early literacy acquisition. Beginning in August of 2021, Upper Arlington Schools will also be moving forward with the planned launch of an all-day kindergarten model, free for all students. The Upper Arlington Board of Education believes all-day kindergarten will better meet the needs of developing learners so that they are able to learn and grow academically, socially and emotionally.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the district offered an Online Academy learning pathway, with approximately 900 students participating at one point. Based on limited demand, the district implemented a smaller version of the Online Academy for the 2021-2022 school year. 


Student and Staff Well-Being

In addition to students’ academic needs, Upper Arlington Schools has been and will continue to focus on the well-being, health and safety of our students and staff.  

After a successful pilot of the Panorama Social-Emotional Learning survey in the spring of 2021, Upper Arlington Schools will utilize this survey in the upcoming school year to determine and respond to students needs, and target responses based on subgroups such as gender, race, ethnicity, or any other traditionally marginalized children so that every student feels loved and supported and is able to access their learning to their fullest potential. 

The district is working with The Ohio State University to establish a student well-being program in 2021-2022. This collaboration of resources will be one more way to support the well-being, mental health and success of our students.

In addition, school and district leaders will be working with our staff to identify social, emotional and mental health needs, and will offer professional learning opportunities to support the well-being of our staff. Finally, school leaders will continue to bring awareness to the district’s Employee Assistance Program and seek feedback on the effectiveness of this programming.

Mitigation Strategies

During the 2020-2021 school year, the district put in place multilayered safety and risk-mitigation plans.  These plans included:

  • Increased frequency of cleaning and sanitization procedures in schools, buses and outdoor spaces including playgrounds;

  • Reconfiguration of traffic flow within the buildings;

  • Air controls set to maximize outdoor air inside the schools;

  • Air purifiers in larger common spaces; 

  • Infrared thermometers available in each building; 

  • Hand sanitizer stations in each classroom and at other key places in each building; and

  • Disposable gloves and appropriate cleaning wipes/sprays available in every classroom.

In addition, all of the schools’ clinics were set up to have separate spaces for well-care and isolation when needed.  The nurses and clinic aides, along with our COVID Nurse Coordinator, are highly trained in dealing with possible cases of COVID-19 and attend regular webinars and question-and-answer sessions with public health officials in order to stay on top of the latest data and research.  In the event of a positive case, thorough contact tracing is completed promptly. All school clinics offer free rapid test kits to students’ families and staff members through a partnership with Franklin County Public Health.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the district’s health and safety plan is our partnership with public health officials and local experts.  In addition to regular briefings with officials from both Franklin County Public Health and Columbus Public Health, the district assembled a Medical Advisory Team (MAT) to provide insight on school operations in relation to the pandemic.  The team includes infectious disease specialists, a pulmonary disease specialist, a member of the executive board of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child psychiatrist, representatives from The Ohio State University College of Public Health and a professor of law and public health from OSU’s Moritz College of Law.

Moving forward, the district and the Board of Education will receive continued guidance from the Medical Advisory Team and state and local health officials on an as-needed basis on mitigation strategies. After listening to an update from the Medical Advisory Team and hearing from parents and community members, the Board of Education passed a resolution on August 10, 2021, requiring universal masking indoors during the school day for students in preschool through grade 8 and the teachers, staff and visitors in those schools, as well as the district’s School-Age Child Care Program, regardless of vaccination status. The Board of Education also strongly recommended that all others not required to wear a mask under the resolution - including students and staff members at the high school level - wear a mask when indoors on school property and encouraged maximizing outdoor time at all grade levels. This resolution will be re-evaluated, if needed, in consultation with public health officials.

A detailed reporting of the district's use of ESSER III federal resources allocated to our district may be found here.

Feedback on this plan

In accordance with federal guidelines, any person electing to provide public comment for review and consideration regarding this plan may email [email protected].

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