The majority of parents responding to a recent Solon City School District survey indicated that their children did well with remote learning put into play after the state closed school buildings in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Acting Superintendent Fred Bolden reported some of the survey findings during the Solon Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. In introducing the survey results, Mr. Bolden said he was waiting for state guidelines to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 academic year. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was scheduled to present the recommendations today. Gov. DeWine has said that local districts will ultimately decide the best way to open this fall since there is no one size fits all for city, rural and suburban districts.
“They’re going to be offering suggestions and we feel it is critical that our plans coincide with those suggestions,” Mr. Bolden said. “None of us are health experts, so we want to take the advice that the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the state board of health give us.”
Mr. Bolden said that more than 2,000 families, representing approximately 80 percent of the student body, answered the survey. More than 60 percent of respondents reported that the remote learning experience was successful for their children. About 25 percent of families said the virtual education alternative was unsuccessful. Buildings remained closed until the end of the school year forcing districts statewide to employ distance learning.
“One of the things that contributed to the level of success was the level of interaction that students had with their teachers,” Mr. Bolden said. “I think it’s heartening that many people did have successful experiences, but some, either through personal challenges or other reasons, want to be able to have those levels of personal interaction with their kids.”
Other key survey results were based on families’ preferences for returning to school in the fall. About 53 percent of families, he said, responded that returning to in-classroom learning would be their first choice and 58 percent of families said that a blended model combining in-person and remote learning days would be their second choice. About 15 percent of families favored full remote learning as their top choice.
Mr. Bolden said administrators will compare the survey to the governor’s guidelines once they’re released and then inform parents about Solon’s plans.
The Family Feedback Survey was sent to all district households at the beginning of June.
The board also discussed the new diploma seals that Assistant Superintendent Deborah Siegel said all Ohio students are required to earn in order to graduate starting in 2023.
“Students must earn two seals,” she said. “As districts we are able to develop the criteria for a community service seal, a student engagement seal and a fine and performing arts seal.” The state can also award different seals with different criteria to students.
“Our students are well positioned to earn many of those seals. Needing two should not be a burden on any of our students,” Mrs. Siegel said.
The board approved a new hire for an American Sign Language instructor at Solon High School. Justin Boe will be splitting his time teaching ALS classes between teaching at Solon and Auburn high schools, where he is jointly employed.
“We needed a few extra classes of ASL,” Mr. Bolden explained, “not enough for us to get a full teacher for that, so Aaron Short, the principal of our high school, worked with the principal of the Aurora high school and created an agreement.” Under this pact, he said, Mr. Boe will work half his time at Aurora and the other half at Solon, so he is essentially being paid a full-time wage.
A few staff members also resigned, including Peg Osborne, a first grade teacher at Lewis Elementary School, after 33 years in the district. “It’s gratifying to the district when you have employees and staff who feel strong enough about what they do that they stay in a position for 33 years,” Board President Julie Glavin commented.
Also resigning was Lara Reminder, who drove buses for the district for 19 years.
Mr. Bolden said Parkside Elementary School kindergarten teacher Joseph Gehring is taking a job in a leadership role at another district, so he won’t be returning here this fall.
“The one thing we did not want to do is present the plan and then state guidelines come out that contradict that,” Mr. Bolden said. “Parents will be making employment and childcare decisions based on this guidance, I would have to change that.”
“Happy last day of 2020,” Solon Local Schools Treasurer Tim Pickana said at the start of his report, which kicked off the meeting. “The reason that we have the meeting today [June 30], what I like to do is our business year runs from July 1 to June 30, so this is the last day of fiscal year 2020 for our district. So I like to look at our documentation to understand where we need to be today.”
During the treasurer’s report, board members approved a number of items, from $52,299 in bills as well as final transfers and advances, revised and temporary appropriations, record disposal request forms and a then and now certificate.
Part of those bill expenditures, Mr. Bolden said, are the outcome of permanent appropriations that voters approved to increase district spending on safety and security. The district will use the extra money to help purchase pieces of personal protection equipment like desk shields, masks and hand sanitizers to help safeguard students and staff from the novel coronavirus when school returns in the fall.