Students and teachers had desk shields and other COVID-19 safety precautions in place when in-person classes resumed Monday at the Berkshire Local School District thanks to an agreement last week between the school board and the Berkshire Education Association.

Due to Geauga County’s recent designation of red on the Ohio Department of Health’s Ohio Public Health Advisory System, Berkshire moved to all remote learning on Oct. 26 until an updated agreement could be reached between the district and association that represents teachers.

“In consultation with the Geauga Health Commissioner [Thomas Quade], at this time it is his opinion that it is safe to operate in-person instruction while the county is red,” Superintendent John Stoddard said.

The statewide advisory system has four alert levels based on the number and rate of increase of COVID-19 cases in each county. The lowest level is yellow followed by orange, red and purple as the highest.

The association accepted the district’s proposal of tighter safety protocols to provide additional safeguards for both students and staff members returning to classrooms, Mr. Stoddard said. Berkshire students still have the option of all-remote learning even if classroom buildings are open.

“We agreed to consult with the Geauga Health Commissioner when the county is labeled red as to whether we would use a remote or an in-person learning model,” Mr. Stoddard said. “We also agreed to make desk shields mandatory for all students at all times, as well as provide desk shields for any teacher who requests one along with ensuring that we will have 3 feet of space between every student in every classroom.”

The superintendent indicated that should the county reach the “purple” designation, the district would move to an all-remote learning format.

“It is never a positive experience for the Berkshire Education Association, the teachers, the administration, or the board of education for these matters to be discussed and debated publicly,” said Mr. Stoddard.

Mr. Stoddard apologized to all of “our dedicated and exceptional teachers who were put in an awkward position as a result of this situation.”

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