Cincinnati Public Schools

Dear CPS Community,

Thank you for your guidance and feedback as we prepare for a return to school in the fall. We began planning in April, and we are grateful for the outpouring of questions, perspectives and ideas that have been shared in the last several weeks and months.

We heard you through participation in planning committees, focus groups and our survey of more than 6,200 employees, parents, students and community members. We have seen record-breaking participation in recent board meetings.

Earlier today, the CPS Board of Education approved a go-forward plan that we believe provides the best balance of safety and academic success for our students. This plan will return students to in-person instruction 2–3 days per week. Because no plan that includes classroom instruction is completely without health risk, we encourage families for whom in-person instruction does not make sense to explore our Cincinnati Digital Academy for the 2020–2021 school year.

Future of Schools Plan

Our guiding principles — safety and health, as much in-person learning as possible, equity, data-driven decision making and fiscal responsibility — remain at the forefront of our planning process.

Our return to school plan includes three important components:

1. Blended Learning

This model includes dividing our students into two groups in order to maintain the CDC's recommended six-feet of social distancing. Each group will receive a minimum of two-days per week in class (Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday) and will alternate attending in-person on Wednesdays. On days that students are not in the classroom, they will utilize remote learning. Students will stay in their schools, and will not spread across other buildings or community spaces.

2. Cincinnati Digital Academy

For parents and guardians concerned about their family’s or their student’s health in an in-person school environment, a full-time digital learning option is available. Our Cincinnati Digital Academy offers a K–12 curriculum which includes both virtual time with teachers and digital classroom lessons.

We are glad to have this option already in our portfolio of choices for our CPS families, as many districts are working to quickly launch a fully online option. We are spending the summer enhancing the curriculum and ensuring that we are prepared for a potential increase in enrollment.

Importantly, students who enroll in Cincinnati Digital Academy for the upcoming academic year will be able retain their position in their current CPS school for the following year. Families can also make this choice on a semester-by-semester basis. We encourage families who are interested in an existing, accredited fully-remote option to explore our Digital Academy.

If you’re considering this option, please complete our interest form and a Cincinnati Digital Academy representative will contact you.

3. The ability to quickly flex to remote learning.

Throughout both the summer and academic year, we will continue to follow guidance from Governor DeWine, the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Board of Education and the Hamilton County Health Department regarding the overall health and transmission risk within our state and the community. We are prepared to transition to a completely remote environment should that be necessary.

It’s important to note that current CDC guidance recommends schools close for two to five days for deep cleaning and monitoring of symptoms in the event of a confirmed case. Although we are currently making final decisions about when and for how long schools might close in the event of an outbreak, we all need to be prepared to make this transition quickly and smoothly.

We learned a lot during the state closure, and we also received feedback from parents and staff about how to improve the experience. As a result, remote learning will look much different than it did in the spring, including:

  • Detailed requirements in place to ensure a consistent remote learning experience,
  • Clear communication for students and families,
  • Access to technology and Wi-Fi, and
  • More robust paper packets connected to specific curriculum.

Health and Safety Protocols

We understand any return-to-school plan presents risks. For this reason, we are partnering with Cincinnati Children's Hospital to develop health and safety protocols that help protect our employees, students and families as much as possible.

These processes will be based on guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and any state direction that is provided in the next several weeks. We will be able to share specifics later this summer, and expect these protocols to include:

  • Rigorous prevention techniques, including at-home and in-school health assessments, temperature checks, and staff and student mask-wearing; and
  • Quick decision, communication, and, as necessary, isolation protocols in response to confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Access to Technology

Regardless of whether we are in-class or learning remotely, technology and internet access are essential tools for our students. Digital disparities between households is one of the greatest sources of inequity in our district. This is why we are expanding our 1:1 device program, and children grades 2–12 will have a take-home device that is safe and includes the tools needed to work from home.

In addition, we are incredibly grateful to be a part of the Cincinnati Bell "Connect Our Students" program, with support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and other partners. This program will give all CPS students free access to Wi-Fi, and is currently in a pilot phase through July with five of our schools, Rockdale Academy, South Avondale School, Hays-Porter Elementary School, Roberts Academy and Fairview-Clifton German Language School. We expect to be able to launch the full program prior to the start of school.

Please visit our website for more details.

Please Update Your Contact Information

One of the most critical steps you can take today is to ensure your home address, phone and email are updated. Please call your school office; or Customer Care at (513) 363-0123 or email Customer Care to do so. This information is necessary to ensure all families receive updates this summer, including confirming eligibility for free internet connectivity, a survey about whether or not you intend to return your child to an in-person classroom, important by-school details and safety protocols, and transportation.

Upcoming Key Dates

Launch of Cincinnati Bell 5-school pilot programCincinnati Bell Wi-Fi connectivity program
Parents and guardians update contact information for future communicationsEmployee Return-to-School meeting
Survey for parents to understand plans to return children to schoolState of the Schools, including details about returning to school
Employee meetingsTechnology and safety workshops for parents
Safety protocols finalized in partnership with Cincinnati Children's HospitalTechnology and safety workshops for students
Detailed planning by school 
Devices distributed to students without technology 
Enrollment deadline of July 17 to help ensure transportation for those who qualify 

Summer Communication Timeline

The Future is Now

While the 2020–2021 school year will be different, it creates new opportunities for us to be more innovative and flexible than ever. And through it all, our commitment will remain the same, preparing our students for life through academic achievement, personal well-being and career readiness. We will come out of this together stronger and better than ever. Thank you for your support along the way.


Laura Mitchell

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Free & Reduced-Price Lunch Program

The federal Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program provides nutritious meals for children from low-income families.

Community Eligibility for Federal Meal Program

A majority of Cincinnati Public Schools qualify for Community Eligibility (CE), which means all students at the schools receive free meals.

List of CE schools

What is CE Community Eligibility?
Community Eligiblity allows school districts in high-poverty areas to provide meals free to students in schools that qualify.

How are schools selected?
Schools are selected based on the percentage of directly certified students attending each school.

What is a "directly certified" (DC) student?
Students may be directly certified when they receive certain federal benefits including SNAP and OWF. Students identified by the district as homeless, Head Start-eligible, migrant or runaways also are considered directly certified. Some foster children also may be directly certified.

Applying for Free & Reduced-Price Lunches

Students who do not attend a Community Eligibility (CE) school may qualify individually for free or reduced-price meals if their household income falls at or below these limits:

(Income Eligibility Chart Effective July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020) Households must complete a new application each school year for the federal meal program.

Household Size Yearly Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
1 $23,107 $1,926 $445
2 $31,284 $2,607 $602
3 $39,461 $3,289 $759
4 $47,638 $3,970 $917
5 $55,815 $4,652 $1,074
6 $63,992 $5,333 $1,231
7 $72,169 $6,015 $1,388
8 $80,346 $6,696 $1,546
Each additional person: $8,177 $682 $158


Applications may be completed online for the federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch program. Only one Free or Reduced-price Lunch application is required per family.

CPS now uses SchoolCafe for Online Meal Applications. Information and Instructions on how to create an online meal account and fill out an online meal application.

Online applications are faster, easier and more confidential. But, if you prefer, you can download an Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals. Also, paper applications are available at your child's school, or you may pick one up at CPS' Student Dining Services Office, 2315 Iowa Avenue (45206). The application changes each year. Applications submitted on prior school-year forms cannot be accepted, per federal law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do families have to complete a free- and reduced-price meal application each year?

Federal guidelines require a new application each year. If students have been pre-approved through direct certification, they will receive written notification through the mail from Student Dining Services.

Do families have to complete a separate free- and reduced-meal application for each child?

No, only one application is needed per household. However, the family must include all of the children in their household (even if they don't attend Cincinnati Public Schools) on the application and indicate the schools they attend.

Questions about filling out the application? Call (513) 363-0800, or stop by the Student Dining Services Department, 2315 Iowa Ave., 2nd Floor (45206).

Can families phone, fax or email the meal application to Student Dining Services?

The new applications use a specific ink that is read by the scanner, so applications must be submitted on the official form with the original signature of the person filling out the form.

As a result, Student Dining Services is unable to process applications over the phone, or receive them via email or fax. Applications forms should be returned to the child's school, or mailed or hand-delivered to CPS Student Dining Services Dept., 2315 Iowa Ave., 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45206.

Are applications available in other languages?

Printed applications are available in English only.

Parents who do not speak English and need help completing the application should contact CPS' Welcome Center for English-Language Learners (ELL) for assistance: (513) 363-3251.

The application changes each year. Applications submitted on prior school-year forms cannot be accepted per federal law.

When does a student's free/reduced-price status change?

Beginning of the School Year  A family must complete a new application by October 1 each school year.

Students who attended Cincinnati Public Schools and participated in the free or reduced-price lunch program during the previous school year may continue that status for the first 30 days of the new school year, or until a new lunch application is approved.

Students new to Cincinnati Public Schools pay for lunches until applications are completed.

After a new application is approved, benefits begin immediately. However, parents are responsible for the cost of the meals while applications are being processed.

If a new application is not submitted by October 1, federal regulations require that the family pays for children's lunches until a current application is completed and approved.

Changes During the School Year
If parents submit a new application and their new income exceeds the allowed amount, or if their income is not verified, students are immediately placed in the appropriate status — either Reduced or Paid. When changes occur throughout the year, there is a four-day grace period so that the notification has time to reach the parents.

Does Student Dining Services try to contact parents before a student's lunch status changes?

Student Dining Services mails applications before the start of school to all registered students. Two follow-up notices are sent home with all elementary students notifying parents who have not submitted new applications.

What are paid meal prices?

Breakfast is served to all CPS' students at no charge.


    Elementary: $1.75
    Secondary: $2.00

Milk — All grades: $0.50 cents

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