Students to Begin Returning to School Buildings Next Month

Glasner and principals present timelines, models for in-person instruction

In a three-hour Board of Education meeting held virtually last night, the district presented plans to bring Pre-K through 12 students back to school starting Oct. 19.

This announcement came six days after superintendent David Glasner announced the district will begin a “phased-in return to in-person instruction.”

“Under this plan, we will begin a safe, phased-in return to onsite learning in late October,” Glasner wrote in a Sept.16 email to district employees. “For our students who cannot return to onsite instruction, online instruction will continue to be an option. Many students will be learning in a hybrid model, splitting time onsite and online and allowing for our classrooms and buses to practice safe physical distancing protocols,” he wrote. 

During yesterday’s BOE special work session, principals of Boulevard, Mercer, Woodbury, the middle school and the high school presented schedules unique to K-4, grades 5-8  and high school buildings, respectively.

All the district’s plans are guided by Cuyahoga County’s Board of Health K-12 school reopening framework, Glasner said.

Glasner presented four scenarios developed in accordance with the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. The system determines if virus spread is active (yellow), increased (orange), very high (red) or severe (purple). If Cuyahoga County is classified as yellow for four consecutive weeks, the district’s 5-12 students will follow a hybrid schedule, with most classes taking place onsite. If the county is classified as orange, grades 5-12 will follow a hybrid model with some onsite classes. If the county is classified as red, all classes will be online except for special needs classes, and if the county is classified as purple, all classes will be online.

 Pre-K students will go back on a hybrid schedule starting Oct. 19. Kindergarten through fourth-grade students will attend in person, full time unless the county reaches red. Cuyahoga County is currently designated orange. 

Families may also choose an online option in which students will access onsite classrooms via webcam. In an email sent to families today, the district wrote “Families who enroll in the Online Option will commit to online learning until January 19, 2021, at a minimum.” Families must choose this option before 12 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Sophomore Mary Basillion is cautious about returning to school. “Personally, I would love to go back to school and am excited to eventually return, but I’m not sure it will be safe,” she said.

Basillion said that though there are risks, some students need in-person instruction. “I feel that going to school may be beneficial, especially for the kids who struggle with virtual learning,” she said. “But at the same time, it may be better to stay home so we can prevent an outbreak and keep people and their families safe.”

Sophomore Allana Appleby said she hopes the district will try its best to keep everyone safe, but ultimately she thinks it would be too difficult and the environment would become unsafe. “Personally, I feel like we should stay home,” Appleby said. “I think there are just way too many students and staff and not enough space to form a plan.”

During the meeting, Glasner said that all students or staff who show Covid-19 symptoms, such as fever and sore throat, are expected to report the symptoms to the school and self-quarantine. All students and staff who have self-quarantined because of symptoms or who test positive will be reported to the state, and contact tracing will occur. 

The district will also staff a A COVID-19 hotline Monday through Friday. Callers may receive recommendations or alert staff about someone showing symptoms.

Junior Eyan Bryant hopes to go back to school so he can have a track season and get more involved in the International Baccalaureate program.

Bryant is more concerned about distancing than masks. “I do feel like some people will wear masks, especially if it is really enforced. But people probably won’t social distance and will get the virus, and we’ll probably go back into quarantine,” he said.

Glasner said COVID testing is not available to school districts in Ohio. According to the district’s Staff Health, Safety, Screening and Absence Guidelines, all staff will be required to fill out a “health assessment self evaluation daily before reporting to work.” 

High school students will return gradually to in-person learning starting Nov. 2. Art, physical education and music classes will be the first back in the building, with all other classes being phased in by Jan. 4, 2021, said Eric Juli, high school principal. 

The high school is still deciding between an A/B model and having students come in two days a week from 8:30 am to 4 pm, with the first group of students coming on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the second group coming on Thursdays and Fridays, depending on students’ last names.

Grades 5-8 will follow A/B models, said middle school Principal Miata Hunter and Woodbury Principal Tiffany Joseph. Half of the students will come to school for the full week, every other week, depending on their last name. Students at home will live stream into classes to ensure no one falls behind.

The district’s K-4 students will be the only ones to attend school in-person every day, said Director of Primary Education Erin Herbruck. Some classes will maintain only three feet of distance between students, who will be put into small groups called pods to work collaboratively. Outdoor activities will be employed to keep children active and distant. 

Sophomore Eva Bishop expressed some hesitation about returning to school.

“One part of me is excited to go back to school because I miss seeing my friends and I want to meet my teachers,” she said. “On the other hand though, we are in a pandemic, and going back to school whether it’s full time or hybrid probably isn’t the safest.” 

Bishop said she worries about passing the virus to her family and thinks the district should hold off the return to school until a vaccine is available.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks in school, Glasner said. The district has acquired 10,000 N-95 masks and will provide them to employees who request them. Glasner strongly recommended that all students and staff get flu shots before returning to school buildings. 

Senior Tanaziona Lucious also has concerns about students following safety protocols. “I am kind of concerned because I know a lot of people don’t like wearing their masks and because we’re in high school, we already break a lot of rules like wearing hats or headphones in the hallways, so why would students wear their masks?” she said.

Lucious also wonders how class schedules will work out. “I was confused because right now, our schedule is so weird online, so how would they even schedule the classes in person assuming we still have 80-minute periods?” she said. 

Basillion has confidence in the district’s safety protocols. “I think the school’s current plan for when we return will help to keep people safe and prevent a spread, but there is always a risk of spreading it if somebody has it at school and doesn’t know it,” she said.

Appleby said, “Although the school would try their best, it’ll just be too hard to keep everybody under control. It’ll just be more beneficial to stay so there’s no way to potentially spread the virus.”

Hilary Shakelton, Brendan Zbanek, Ashley Sah and Jaimee Martin contributed reporting. The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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