With the district set to return to school on Aug. 31, the Chardon Local School District Board of Education Monday approved the Return to Learning Responsible Restart plan.

“It’s important to remember that everyone – schools, districts, parents, students, teachers – wants the same thing: a safe return to school,” Chardon Superintendent Michael Hanlon said. “This crisis has impacted different regions and age groups in different ways, and there is significant misinformation out there.”

The plan has been revised, Dr. Hanlon added, with updated cafeteria and transportation guidelines as well as building schedules for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. He also said that his staff assigned students into A and B groups to help with hybrid scheduling. Virtual class assignments have been confirmed, he added.

“We realize that this is a lot of information,” Dr. Hanlon said of the 55-page packet that can be found on the district’s website. As of now, he said about 19 percent of Chardon’s student population has opted to learn using the blue model, which is an entirely virtual option for parents who want their children to remain at home.

The document stipulates that Chardon schools can be reopened if, and only if, all Geauga County risk assessment indicators are either declining or holding steady, with data as of Aug. 13 suggesting that there are 24.56 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, placing Geauga in the yellow, the lowest level, of the state’s four-part advisory system.

“These are all positive indicators and support the district using its full instructional model,” Dr. Hanlon said.

The board also approved use of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System 2.0, the next iteration of the state’s current standards-based teacher evaluation system, to take effect in September. With the potential for remote learning, Dr. Hanlon said he is cautious about this system.

“In the spring we developed an MOU to how that evaluation would be carried out specific to the spring 2019-2020 school year evaluations,” Dr. Hanlon reminded the board. “I would anticipate having the same process here.”

Several items that tend to pop up on the board’s radar around this time of year also received approval including handbooks for each of the district’s three school buildings as well as online curriculum and food service agreements.

The board also approved policies requiring students to wear face masks on district property, with pre-kindergarten students following state-issued guidelines and kindergartners through seniors wearing them on school transportation, during arrival and dismissal procedures and in common areas, like the hallway.

Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Deb Armbruster said that she discovered a bank error in which Chase Bank had deposited an extra $21,379 into the district’s account for reasons unknown.

“Those have been somewhat concerning and I contacted Chase Bank,” she told the school board. There are a few negatives in some of Chardon’s accounts, she said adding that this is standard for the back-to-school season as the district purchases supplies.

The district spent $103,307 on personal protective equipment in July, Mrs. Armbruster said.

She updated her standard monthly financial report with a new slide that includes future possible revenues from COVID-related grants, of which she anticipated $388,317 in potential total revenue that can be spent on PPE and other anti-virus supplies.

The board voted to accept an $1,100 donation courtesy of Beachwood City Schools Board of Education as well as their administrators and central staff, to go to efforts providing mental health and suicide prevention support to students.

The board approved a 3-percent pay raise for Mrs. Armbruster for the 2020-2021 school year as recognition of all the hard work she has done for the district, both during the pandemic and prior to it.

“I’ve come to understand that good leadership starts at the top,” board member Keith Brewster said. “I appreciate your attention to details in putting together reports, it’s incredible. You’re always quick to answer my dumb questions and I appreciate it.”

The board met again on Wednesday morning to approve a revised academic calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“This essentially moves the start of the school year to the end of August,” board member Guy Wilson said on Wednesday, referencing the Aug. 31 start date for students and Aug. 26 start date for teachers.

The dates were the same but the changes included establishing that only group A students would be reporting to school for the first time on Aug. 31 and group B on Sept. 1.

Group A students will attend in-person classes on Mondays, Thursdays and alternating Wednesdays, while students in group B will attend them every Tuesday, Friday and Alternating Wednesdays. Group B has the first Wednesday on lock, so group A students will be going to school Monday and Thursday of their first week, with the other group taking up the other three.

The revised schedule tentatively sets the end of the first quarter of the school year for some time in October. Thanksgiving break will last from Nov. 25-29, including a teacher conference day and weekends, with the second quarter ending in December. Winter Break lasts from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4, with classes resuming the next day.

The third quarter of the year ends in March, spring break from March 27 to April 5.

The last day of school will be June 11.

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