The Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Board of Education approved the district’s Operational Return to School Guide last week, which is intended to help staff and parents navigate the upcoming school year with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guide outlines the three models previously approved by the board, including the current hybrid model with students attending both in-person and remote classes, an all-in model and an all-remote model; the 2020-2021 academic calendar that includes a soft start the week of Aug. 24 and the official first day for all students in grades kindergarten through 12 on Aug. 31; and COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“It’s really important that we all share a common goal in safely returning our students to school and that we do what the community does best, coming together to work toward that goal,” Superintendent Robert Hunt said during the regular meeting Aug. 12 on Zoom. He said it is “critical” that the community take responsibility for doing what is needed in order to “hopefully bring all students back” to school.

Parents and staff received the document on Aug. 13, which was also made available on the district website. Dr. Hunt said the document was created with guidance from University Hospitals of Cleveland and the Cleveland Clinic. He wanted parents and staff to review the 34-page document before the start of school to help them get better acquainted with both the reopening plan and safety measures in place for COVID-19.

In his presentation to the board, Dr. Hunt highlighted key areas of the guide, providing a breakdown of the hybrid model by school building, an overview of the district’s Virtual Academy, which Director of Technology and Information Systems Mike Daugherty said includes both synchronous and asynchronous lesson plans, and how the district plans to monitor the COVID-19 virus’ progression, or lack thereof, in the district to determine model changes, among other aspects of the reopening guide.

When looking at monitoring the virus, Dr. Hunt said there are four key areas the district will consider: the implementation of health and safety requirements, the state advisory system, staff COVID-19 cases and attendance and student COVID-19 cases and attendance.

The implementation of health and safety requirements include the availability of personal protection equipment, or PPE, for students and staff, adherence to mask requirements, temperature screening, building operations, sanitization and transportation procedures.

“All of these elements have to be operated very efficiently, effectively and consistently as really they’re the [basis] for us to effectively run and operate school in a safe manner,” Dr. Hunt said.

With the consideration of the state advisory system, Dr. Hunt explained that the district will be looking at both Cuyahoga and Geauga counties. The Chagrin Falls school district is made up of several communities in both counties, including Chagrin Falls, Bentleyville, South Russell and parts of Moreland Hills.

Dr. Hunt said Chagrin will also look at a “decision making matrix” that factors in the four variables for determining the instructional model for the district. He said this will be reviewed every other week to get a better understanding of case trends in the community.

The goal would be for the district to be able to switch to an all-in model within one week if safe to do so, he said. While the matrix is for the entire district, he said it could be possible to look at it building-by-building.

In addition to the decision matrix, the guide also includes a flow chart for what to do if someone were to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, as well as instances of exposure or positive cases.

He added that this guide will be a live document that the district will update as things change with the pandemic and with changes highlighted.

“There’s a lot of detail in this document,” Dr. Hunt said. “I cannot encourage you enough to take the time to read through this, start to have conversations with your kids about the things that are in it so there are no surprises.”

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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