Orange Superintendent Lynn Campbell presented two recommendations for returning to school this fall, a blended learning option and a fully remote option. Two hundred people piled into the Zoom meeting on Monday to hear proposed plans for the Orange City School District.

In the blended learning option, Dr. Campbell explained that the children would come to school every day for a half-day. There would be a cohort in the morning, a different cohort in the afternoon and a midday cleaning. There would also be remote learning activities to complete when the students are not present in the school building. Exact times for each cohort have not yet been determined. For families who choose the full remote learning option, Dr. Campbell said that those children would keep the same pace as the students in the blended model.

“The trials of COVID-19 are affecting every facet of our lives and schools are no exception,” he said at the Board of Education meeting on Monday.

Gov. Mike DeWine closed school buildings statewide in mid-March to control the increase of COVID-19 cases with students completing the 2019-2020 academic year through distance learning. With coronovirus cases still on the rise, school officials nationwide are attempting to find the safest way to start the next academic year.

After discussion and input from the community, Dr. Campbell said on Monday that he plans to submit this plan to the school board for approval at a special meeting. He explained that he would like to move forward with registration forms so parents can choose between the remote learning option or the blended learning option. There will also be a section on the form to select or opt out of busing, Dr. Campbell said.

“One of the biggest things that I think our parents can do is any family that is capable is to consider transporting their own children to alleviate the transportation demand,” he added.

Board President Beth Wilson-Fish said that she wants to further investigate using several tents outdoors around the school campus to spread out students because research shows that being outside is safer.

“I hate to bring up the elephant in the room, but as we know, [COVID-19 cases] keep going up, especially in [Cuyahoga] County, in the past couple weeks,” she said. “I have not ruled out the possibility that we may be starting remote, which is extremely unfortunate.”

At this time, Aug. 17-26 are scheduled as work days for teachers to learn the new policies and work environment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Aug. 27-28 will be a “soft start” for students, Dr. Campbell said, and they will take a virtual tour of the school building and watch other videos remotely. In-person classes will begin on Aug. 31.

In June, Orange sent a survey to parents in the district to gather information about returning to school this fall and received 1,221 responses. Nearly 67.1 percent of parents said that they would send their child back to school in person. About 8.1 percent said that they would keep their child home for remote learning and 24.8 percent said that they were undecided, according to Dr. Campbell.

District officials also asked parents about whether their child would ride the school bus when school resumes. In that survey, 51 percent of parents said that their child would ride the bus to school, 22 percent said that their child would not ride the bus and 27 percent of parents were undecided, Dr. Campbell said.

The superintendent said that there were several key takeaways from conducting remote learning this spring due to Gov. DeWine’s order to close schools in March. Dr. Campbell said that parents are looking for more consistency with using Google Classroom and a structured schedule to improve attendance.

Dr. Campbell noted that guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics stressed the importance of children being in school in person despite COVID-19 risks because of the potential damage from social isolation. The University Hospitals Healthy Restart Team is coming to visit the campus to give recommendations for a safe reopening, Dr. Campbell said.

Board Vice President Rebecca Boyle had two suggestions for the reopening plan. She said that parents need to have a definite time for the morning and afternoon cohorts as soon as possible so they can make childcare plans. She also said that keeping siblings together is necessary.

“We’ve got to do everything in our power to put siblings in the same cohort,” she said.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. via internet streaming.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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