Orange City School District administrators last week responded to a multitude of questions from parents about the virtual learning plan that currently is in place and the blended model that the district plans to implement when it is safe for students to return to school buildings.
Superintendent Lynn Campbell joined the building principals for a town hall meeting on Facebook Live on Sept. 10, including Christine Goudy of Orange Inclusive Preschool, Renee Tuttle of Moreland Hills Elementary School, Brian Frank of Brady Middle School and Paul Lucas of Orange High School.
“We as educators, of course, value nothing more than the education of our little lions and our not-so-little lions,” Dr. Campbell said, referring to the school mascot.
Although many parents were looking for more details on when school buildings will reopen, Dr. Campbell said that there is no definite timeline. He emphasized the district’s reliance on advice from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and mentioned that they are following advice from the University Hospitals Healthy Restart Plan.
Dr. Campbell announced earlier this summer that Orange would remain fully virtual through Dec. 18, the end of the first semester. But he and Board of Education members have said that they hope to begin their blended learning model sooner if possible.
A parent asked how the district is addressing equity concerns during virtual learning. Dr. Campbell said that the district has distributed 21 Kajeet hotspots for WiFi so students can complete their work online. Administrators have also ensured that students in need have access to meals, whether through delivery, drop-off or drive-thru options, he said.
Some parents expressed concerns with the fully virtual model, including too much screen time for children and long classes. For the high school, Dr. Lucas said that the teachers are at 65 percent of their typical instructional time. Although most of their resources are remote at this time, Dr. Lucas said that teachers are encouraged to integrate other work or projects that are not on the computer.
“I think that differs by teacher, but it’s also going to differ by course level,” Dr. Lucas said. He explained that advanced placement classes are more likely to be online. Honors classes do not spend as much time online, and college preparation classes spend more time on schoolwork that is not on the computer.
A parent said that children at the elementary school could use more breaks throughout the classes that last more than two hours. Mrs. Tuttle said that she and the teachers understand the importance of “brain breaks,” such as a few moments for a mental break or physical activity.
The blended model that Orange has prepared has morning and afternoon cohorts so students only spend half the day in school buildings. There will still be a fully remote option. Dr. Campbell told parents that the fully virtual option will be taught by Orange teachers. He made it clear that the district is not contracting out with another service or virtual academy. The preschool, however, will not have a fully virtual option; those children must come in person.
Although the students and teachers are eager to return to school as normal, Dr. Campbell said that it is important to wait until it is safe to do so to avoid new COVID-19 cases and another closure.
“I know bouncing back and forth is a big concern,” he said. “It will be hard on kids, it will be hard on family arrangements.”
The school board met in person on Monday and the meeting was live streamed for public viewing.