Mount Vernon Board of Education

The Mount Vernon City Schools Central Office is located at 300 Newark Rd. in Mount Vernon.

MOUNT VERNON -- Mount Vernon City Schools will offer an online learning option for 6 through 12 grade students during the 2021-22 school year.

As of now, Mount Vernon is the only district in Knox County offering an online option. Superintendent William Seder released back-to-school guidelines Monday, many of which are in line with other districts’ guidelines. 

MVCS will not require mask wearing in the classroom, nor are any other Knox districts thus far. However, MVCS will implement mandatory masking if absentee rates because of COVID-19 infection or quarantine reach a weekly average of 20% or greater in any building, Seder said. 

“We chose 20% because it’s a percentage that we’ve used in other situations with the flu and different types of illnesses,” Seder said. “That seemed like the right number for us.”

Students and parents will be notified on a Friday if masking mandates will be implemented the following week.

Online learning is not new for MVCS, as it has been offering a virtual option since 2016 through its digital academy, Seder said.

Other districts, such as East Knox, have cited Ohio’s 2022-2023 biennial budget, which requires the creation of a separate online learning school, as the reason why the district opted not to offer an online option.

Under the legislation, the online school will have a separate information retrieval number and students must be assigned to the online school for the purposes of reporting and school funding.

The legislation does not apply to MVCS’s model, which is categorized as blended learning, Seder said. In MVCS’s digital academy, students periodically attend in-person school sessions at the Board of Education Central Office classrooms, but complete the majority of their work online.

“The ability to bring students in half a day to really focus on those core academics and to allow them to go out and leave the second half of the day to go to work or do other things really was appealing to some students, especially to those who might be in jeopardy of graduating,” Seder said.

“Secondly, though, we didn’t want it to just be about credit recovery or those who were in jeopardy of not graduating. We realized with the addition of college credit plus and just the varied options of online schools that some of our students were beginning to migrate to that it made a lot of sense for us to jump into that arena — that way we could keep them connected to Mount Vernon City Schools.”

Last school year, MVCS offered online learning for kindergarten through 5th grade students as well, in addition to the usual 6-12 grade digital academy. 

“As the year went on, we had more and more students opt to go back to traditional learning,” Seder said. “It’s a challenge, we believe, for our younger students, K-5, to really be engaged and receive the same online education that they may get face-to-face in school.”

The district continuously sent more K-5 teachers back into the classroom to accommodate the shift away from online learning last year, Seder said, which led to the district’s decision to not offer online learning for younger students during the upcoming school year.

Last school year students could switch learning models every nine weeks, but this year students will have to decide on a learning option per semester, Seder said. 

“In hindsight, I’m not sure it was the best because the staffing and transitions were really difficult,” Seder said, explaining why the district has shifted its guidelines.

As of now, approximately 100 MVCS students are enrolled in the digital academy, Seder said.

Masks are not required in the classroom but will be required on school buses, which is a mandate nationwide. MVCS will provide disposable masks for students who do not have their own, Seder said. 

“We understand there are various perspectives and viewpoints around this issue and we certainly want to respect all those perspectives,” Seder said, referring to masking. “We may not agree with everyone’s viewpoints, but we can do it in a respectful manner. 

“We encourage masking, and we encourage vaccinations. We just didn’t feel we should make that decision for parents.”

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.

Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.