School may start a week later than originally anticipated for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District, and even later for kindergarten, with proposed changes to the academic calendar as officials draft plans to open schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chagrin Falls Board of Education held a public hearing during their virtual July 8 meeting for proposed changes to the school calendar, which includes pushing back the start of the 2020-21 school year to Aug. 31 for grades one through 12. Kindergarten will start Sept. 9 with the current proposed changes.

Superintendent Robert Hunt said this would allow for additional training of teachers and staff with potential changes to the structure of school days for COVID-19 precautions, like blocked schedules or hybrid courses. He added that this could also allow a phase-in approach to starting off the school year, bringing in small numbers of students at a time to avoid a crowded first day.

“Rather than having an all-in opening day, we’ll have the opportunity to bring in groups of students in smaller groups, safely; kind of reintegrate them into the educational process in a brick and mortar structure and work through things,” he said.

The calendar can change, Dr. Hunt said, based on input from the public. He said people should email the board with any concerns regarding the proposed calendar changes.

The district would typically come back to school Aug. 17 with the first day for students on Aug. 20, Dr. Hunt said. Instead, he proposed using that week and the following Monday, Aug. 24, for additional training for staff for potential operational changes for COVID-19. He said starting Aug. 25 is when the district may start bringing in small groups of students with an official start date for grades one through 12 on Aug. 31.

The district is looking to push back the kindergarten start date to Sept. 9, he said, to provide necessary kindergarten screening normally done at the end of the school year.

Dr. Hunt explained that due to the school closures in mid-March through the end of the academic year, the district was unable to conduct kindergarten screening. The pushback for kindergarten is so the district can conduct this screening at the beginning of the school year, he said.

There are 161 instructional days for kindergarten, 166 instructional days for grades one through six and 168 instructional days for grades seven through 12, with the proposed changes, he said. With the push back of the school year, the district still “meets and exceeds the state minimum hour requirement” for instruction, he added, and the school year should end around the same time.

The current school calendar without the proposed changes shows school ending May 26 for students in grades kindergarten through six and May 27 for grades seven through 12.

The changes could still look different before the start of the school year, Dr. Hunt said, encouraging members of the public to email the board with any concerns to the changes. He said the changes are not yet an official recommendation, but a presentation in a public hearing at the time of the meeting.

He said he hopes to have an official announcement to the district regarding updates to the school calendar, in addition to general guidelines for reopening schools, by July 20.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for July 22 at 6 p.m. The board has held their meetings virtually via Zoom, which the public can view live-streamed through YouTube.

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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