Chardon Local School District officials on Monday unveiled an extensive back to school plan based on a color-coded, four-part model that mirrors the state’s alert system determined by the increased number of coronavirus cases in each county.
“I want to emphasize that our primary goal at the Chardon Local School District is the safety of our staff, students and community members,” Superintendent Michael Hanlon said during the meeting. “I think by the end the solutions are less than what we desire to see, but necessary solutions that we had to attend to.”
Gov. DeWine’s system includes from lowest to highest Level 1, yellow, with active community spread; Level 2, orange with increased exposure; Level 3, red, with very high exposure and Level 4, purple with severe exposure and spread.
Mr. Hanlon said that if Geauga County is designated purple, the most severe level of infection, all students would be participating in virtual learning.
As of early this week, Geauga was designated orange, the second lowest level on the four-part warning scale.
“If we see Geauga moving to red risk assessment [second from highest level],” he continued, “you will likely see a full remote learning model. However [Geauga County Health Commissioner Thomas Quade] did want to leave flexibility for us to work in conjunction with him under a lower response level if conditions were isolated or allowed us to continue. Red will most likely put us in remote, but a possibility to bring us to a lower level of response depending on conditions.”
The orange level is next-less severe one, and Mr. Hanlon said it would result in an alternating day modified schedule in which 50 percent of students would be attending in person lessons on any given day. The remaining 50 percent would be working on at-home work, which Dr. Hanlon said is designed to be comparable to regular schoolwork and requires minimal parental input.
To help determine which students can come to school on which day, Mr. Hanlon said the district is currently working on creating an A list and a B list to ensure the same students are coming to school on the same days.
“There will be some opportunity for parents to get input if they need movement in that, but we were trying to balance that for 50 percent attendance across the board for this hybrid system,” Dr. Hanlon said, adding that the goal is to keep family members together as much as possible.
The least severe model that Dr. Hanlon discussed was the yellow model, which calls for in-person learning for all students. He added that another major difference between orange and yellow threat levels are the numbers of students in each classroom; a maximum of 22 students would be in classes under a code yellow, the lowest level, but that number would decrease to between 10 to 12 with code orange, the second from the lowest.
He also outlined a 100 percent online option the district calls the blue model, in which parents who don’t want their children to interact with the general population or who have students with significant health issues can opt to participate in remote learning exclusively. Parents, he said, have until the end of July to inform the district if they want to go with the blue model.
Assistant Superintendent Edward Klein said that there are different enrollment forms for the blue model, one for Kindergarten through seventh grade students and a number of others pertaining to different high school classes.
Changes also will be coming to the five school buildings. Dr. Hanlon announced that the district has purchased translucent, tri-fold shields for students to place on their desks, to be sanitized every day. He also said that all students and staff will be required to wear face coverings, and students have the option to bring their own from home or use school-provided masks. They can remove their face masks while they are using the foldable plastic barriers.
Dr. Hanlon said the school’s new face mask policy also necessitated some changes to the district’s calendar, pushing the start of the school year back 10 days, to Aug. 31, which would have an impact on the rest of the school year.
“Revising the district calendar requires a 30-day process,” he said. “We’re not voting on that tonight, but it is the first public opportunity to hear the board’s decision. We are welcoming any feedback from the community on that proposed calendar.”
The new calendar, along with the rest of the plan, is available at the Chardon Local School District Board of Education’s website
“The only exception I’ll comment on is Pre-K,” he added. “Pre-K students are subject to a separate set of guidelines than K-12. Pre-K will follow state guidelines. Students will wear face masks on all transportation, during arrival and dismissal.”
Additionally, school buildings and rooms will be reorganized to account for social distancing. Desks will be placed further apart, one-way pedestrian lanes will be formed and class changes or breaks will be staggered to prevent large congregations in the hallways.
Dr. Hanlon advised parents to not send students with COVID-19 symptoms to school. The district will be performing in-school testing through use of handheld thermometers, which will scan students’ temperatures as they walk past staff members. If a child’s temperature is over a certain threshold, school health workers will pull that student aside and perform additional testing.
“I can’t emphasize enough, I believe we are in concert with Commissioner Quade and parents need to be an active partner in that process,” he said. “We’re all screening to help others out, so we’re relying on that to be done.”
The divide between in-person and virtual classes will be more difficult to navigate for high school students, Dr. Hanlon explained, because of the large volume and variety of different classes offered.
“There is the potential that, when we say 100 percent virtual, there is a potential that a high school student could have two-thirds of their schedule virtual and one third in person and just need to come in for a course or two,” he continued. “We’re trying to accommodate high school requests where we can.”
Dr. Klein added that 100 percent of these lesson plans are being built from the ground up by Chardon staff to educate their students specifically, and though activities may differ slightly between virtual and in-person courses, the subject matter and lesson plan will be consistent.
“You need to consider independence and developmental abilities of students to enroll in virtual sessions,” Dr. Klein said. “I can only imagine working with a kindergartner at home. As a parent, it was difficult to work with three teenagers at home. I want parents to know they will have to be an active partner in this process if it’s virtual.”
Dr. Hanlon said the only aspect of the plan that needs to be submitted to and approved by the Ohio Department of Education is the proposed blending learning model, an item created by recent legislation.
Steven Kofol, the district’s assistant superintendent for business affairs, added that this is the most important year for parents to inform Chardon’s transportation department if their children are not using transportation services.
“We will have software where parents can look up their bus pick up and drop off times so parents can have a better understanding,” he said.
In a related matter, the board voted to approve a temporary policy that enforces the use of face masks on the district’s students, employees and visitors.
District Treasurer Deb Armbruster announced that the school system is scheduled to collect an additional $145,262 in CARES Act funding, to reimburse for personal protective equipment costs and other coronavirus related expenses. The board also approved a new fund to hold the CARES revenue.
The board will broadcast their next meeting via BoxCast at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17.