High School to Remain Remote; Pre K-8 to Cease Onsite Instruction

Shaker follows county recommendation that schools return to remote model after Thanksgiving


Morgan Fowler

Elementary students at Onaway participate in their last day of onsite learing until at least January.

The district will suspend all onsite instruction in keeping with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s release of a 28-day stay-at-home advisory Wednesday  afternoon.

The advisory asks that all residents leave home only for essential trips, such as purchasing groceries and going to work or school. The resolution also states that schools should return to or continue remote learning after Thanksgiving. Along with Gov. Mike DeWine’s statewide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for businesses, the advisory is meant to lessen the impact of the 118 percent increase in reported COVID-19 cases in Ohio. 

In Cuyahoga County, the positivity rate of tested individuals has risen to 15 percent and is climbing,Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allen said. The heads of Cleveland’s six major hospital systems purchased a full-page ad in The Plain Dealer Nov. 15  in which they pleaded with Northeast Ohioans to change their behavior so that hospital employees can care for patients. 

Unlike DeWine’s March stay-at-home order, the CCBH advisory doesn’t require businesses to close. 

Because of the new advisory, the district decided not to continue with onsite plans. “All Shaker Heights Schools PreK-12 students will return to full remote learning beginning Monday, November 30 through Friday, December 18,” the district stated on shaker.org.

Superintendent David Glasner said the district decided to make the shift back to full remote learning due to the county’s recommendation. “They included in that advisory a specific message about schools,” he said, “and said that schools should go back to a remote learning environment following the thanksgiving holiday through Dec. 17.”

“We knew that the data trajectory has been pretty terrible over the past few weeks,” Glasner said. He said that while the district is prepared to revert to remote learning, he wasn’t expecting the announcement from the county to come on Wednesday.

Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association President and high school English teacher John Morris agrees with the district’s decision to stop the return to onsite learning. “SHTA Leadership is relieved that the district has opted to follow Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommendations to return to remote learning until the beginning of next year,” Morris wrote in an email. “We believe that this decision is in the best interests of our students, teachers, faculty, staff, and community.”

The SHTA has opposed returning to in-person learning since the plans were initially announced over the summer. In the original letter released by the SHTA this summer, the association requested that the district delay the return to onsite learning until the start of second semester.

In his message published in the Nov. 16 SHTA newsletter, Morris advocated continued remote instruction. “I would argue that with rapidly increasing infection numbers, families congregating for Thanksgiving, and college students returning home from college, the district should consider a full shutdown until the beginning of second semester, or at the very least commit to a 14 day quarantine/shutdown until December 10th,” Morris wrote. “We have seen an increase in our state of 50,000 cases in the past 13 days. It seems only responsible for the district to limit the spread of this virus in any way that it can.”

Students in grades K-8 began returning to school Nov. 5, and high school students who chose to return to onsite learning were to begin Nov. 30, following Thanksgiving break. 

Board of Education President Heather Weingart said that the district will continue moving forward with the same reopening plans whenever the county says it is safe. “Our goal has been and will continue to be to get the students back in the building as soon as possible,” she said. Weingart said she is confident that when the time comes, the safety measures that have been put in place will keep students and staff safe. 

Glasner said he is not worried about the district’s ability to continue to provide for students throughout the next few weeks. “We have gotten quite a bit of experience with remote learning and remote teaching,” Glasner said. “We’re very confident that we will continue to be able to provide strong support for students in an online setting.”

Freshman Ceci Favret planned to return to onsite learning. “I was really looking forward to connecting with my teachers more because I haven’t had a chance to get to know them as well as I would in the building,” she said.

Junior Andrew Loney planned to continue learning remotely for the remainder of the semester. He wanted to eventually return to onsite learning because his higher level and IB courses are hard to learn remotely.  He said these classes would be better face-to-face with teachers.

Loney was not surprised by the district’s decision. “In the past couple weeks, there’d been emails of more cases in Shaker every day, so I really didn’t see it going through,” he said. 

According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are seven active student cases and 10 active staff cases of the virus as of today. Since Sept. 8, there have been 28 total reported cases among students and staff, according to the dashboard.

All students K-8 who are currently participating in onsite learning will remain onsite for the remainder of this week. The district will continue to provide meals free of charge to all students during remote learning.

Favret said she was looking forward to seeing peers she does not usually see outside of school. “I have some really good school friends I met last year, and, especially because last year we had teams, there’s a lot of kids I don’t really know or haven’t even met,” she said. “So I was looking forward to meeting new people and reconnecting with those school friends.”

The stay-at-home advisory and district announcement came just a day after the most recent Board of Education meeting, where the district decided to continue with onsite learning. The district cited the safety measures they had put in place and the lack of data showing high levels of spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

The BOE read aloud community comments at the start of the meeting. Most opposed the return to onsite learning. “You will be remembered as the group of leaders who decided to push this community to engage in large, indoor gatherings at the height of the greatest pandemic to hit the U.S. in 100 years,” one community member’s statement read. “This is your legacy.”

“It’s hard to hear the frustration and the anger, but in my experience, for every person who is disgruntled there is a person who’s on the exact opposite side of the issue, and I always have to keep that in mind when considering any of the decisions we make,” Weingart said.

According to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, the state has had 326,616 cumulative cases since March. In the past 24 hours alone, there were 7,787 reported cases in the state. The state also saw 63 deaths in the past 24 hours. The current 21-day average is 5,604 cases per day and 29 deaths per day.

Glasner said that whenever the district goes through a change like this, it is a team effort. “I really want to thank and commend everybody and acknowledge all the hard work our teachers, our administrators and all the rest of our staff and faculty are doing to make sure that learning will continue uninterrupted,” he said. “I also appreciate our community’s support, patience and flexibility during these times.”

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops. Danielle Krantz, Morgan Fowler, Vivian Bowling, Daniel Tcheurekdijon and Grace Wilkinson contributed reporting.

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