The district is in for a lineup of updates from Chagrin Falls school officials with three livestreams, including a community forum and two town halls.

Superintendent Robert Hunt announced last week that the exempted village school district will hold a community forum today (Sept. 10) to highlight details on the reopening of school so far, a brief overview of the 3.85-mill levy set to hit the Nov. 3 ballot and information on a new dashboard for monitoring the learning model transitions amidst the novel coronavirus health crisis.

Following this week’s forum, Dr. Hunt and district Treasurer Ashley Brudno will lead two virtual town halls on Sept. 22 and 29 to share more in depth insight on the proposed operating levy for this year’s presidential election, Dr. Hunt said at the Sept. 2 meeting. All three meetings will start at 6 p.m.

The town halls will each include a brief presentation followed by time for questions and answers, according to district communications. Dr. Hunt said the entire district is to receive invitations to the town halls in the mail.

The Chagrin Falls school district is made up of Chagrin Falls, South Russell, Bentleyville and parts of Moreland Hills.

The board of education had previously discussed putting a 7.9-mill levy on the ballot this fall, but opted to reduce the millage to 3.85 after Gov. Mike DeWine’s closure of all nonessential businesses across the state in the spring to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The 3.85 mills, if approved by voters, will replace millage expiring on taxpayers’ bills this December with the maturity of a debt service. Officials have stressed that the passage of this operating levy will not increase taxes.

Dr. Hunt introduced during last week’s BOE meeting the dashboard the district will utilize for monitoring cases of COVID-19 in the schools, as well as other criteria for determining potential switches to either all-in or all-remote learning models as needed.

Currently, the district is operating in a hybrid model with students taking some of their classes online from home and other classes in person with the option to go all remote. The BOE approved all three models in July to ensure efficient transitions between them.

Dr. Hunt said the structure and information to be shared on the dashboard was subject to “tweak and change” as of last week’s meeting with Gov. DeWine’s anticipated requirements for schools’ COVID-19 reporting set to be released the following day.

Gov. DeWine announced his school reporting order on Sept. 3 for all K-12 schools in Ohio, and his order was to go in effect on Sept. 8.

Dr. Hunt explained that the dashboard would be available on the district website for parents to view and will update at least every two weeks with data on COVID-19 cases among both staff and students per building.

“This just gives you an idea of what we’ll be tracking and how we’ll be tracking it over the course of working in the [COVID-19] environment,” he said, explaining that the dashboard will present data on current and cumulative cases of the virus in the 2020-2021 school year.

There were zero active cases of COVID-19 as of last week’s meeting, Dr. Hunt said, with two cumulative cases so far this year. He said both individuals had already completed their 14-day quarantines and had received doctors’ OKs to return to school.

The dashboard will also monitor the district’s status with providing personal protection equipment, or PPE, and sanitization measures, staff and student attendance and the Ohio Public Health advisory system, Dr. Hunt said.

In addition to having the dashboard available online, the district will also use a notification system to inform parents of positive or presumptive cases of the virus in their students’ classes.

“When we have a confirmed case, [we’ll] immediately contact either the Cuyahoga or Geauga County boards of health, and we walk through that case with them,” Dr. Hunt explained, adding that the schools will do a lot of the contact tracing with their nurses.

Dr. Hunt explained that contact tracing goes back 48 hours from when an individual exhibits symptoms or receives a positive test.

“The CDC standard [for exposure] is within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes; however, Cuyahoga County has asked us to use within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes,” Dr. Hunt said, noting that the district will use the county’s standard. He said any individual identified having been within 6 feet of someone exhibiting symptoms, or having tested positive for COVID-19, would be considered exposed and would be required to quarantine for 14 days.

“One of the benefits [with a hybrid model] is if you have a positive case in a classroom, if you’ve got at least 6 feet in that classroom, they don’t fall under that requirement,” he added. “If we or when we go all in, we would strive to do the best we can, but I cannot commit to 6 feet. If there’s exposure, those students around would be in contact and they would be identified. That’s something to think about that wasn’t on my mind when we were going through this, and we may want to discuss further moving forward before flipping to an all-in approach.”

Board member Kathryn Garvey noted that some school districts that planned to follow the American Pediatrics Association’s recommendation for spacing desks 3 feet apart may be in trouble when a case shows up in a classroom.

“They may have been in a situation where everybody would have to quarantine that was around a student because they were only at a 3-foot distance,” she said. “It’s definitely a consideration, I think, that wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar with pushing to go and have everybody come back. That could really hamper the learning process if you have half of the classroom, for example, that has to be out because of quarantine.”

The public can access the community forum and both town halls live or after the fact on the district’s YouTube channel. Participants can submit questions for the town halls in advance or during the meeting at bit.ly/Questions_TownHall.

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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