West Geauga Local Schools rolled out two new stakeholder committees to continue the discussion of Newbury school facilities and the reopening of the 2020-21 school year.

The district also will receive building upgrades this summer for better control of visitors, including the installation of pass-through windows and sneeze guards at all four buildings and movement of administrative offices at the middle school.

Superintendent Richard Markwardt updated the board on the creation of the stakeholder committees during their regular June 24 meeting.

“We reached out to a number of individuals in the West Geauga community, inclusive of Newbury Township, to put together a group that we felt would be capable of studying the future use of the buildings and exploring options and then making some presentations of information to the board,” Dr. Markwardt said of the Newbury schools committee.

He said the committee, which he will head, is not a decision-making body.

“This is purely an advisory body that’s being put together at the board’s request,” he said. “This is not in any way done to supplant any discussions that are underway, it’s just merely to have options open so that as we move forward, we can act in a way that’s responsible toward both all the residents of West G and the residents of Newbury Township in particular.”

As for the reopening of schools, Director of Technology and Operations Sean Whelan will spearhead that committee, Dr. Markwardt said.

“It’s a task force committee that relates to the reopening of school in the fall,” he said. “[Gov. Mike DeWine] has stated that schools will reopen, but they may reopen in some formats that are somewhat new to us and creative.”

The committee will explore options for reopening by gaining input from staff and parents, Dr. Markwardt explained, as well as surveys the district has previously sent out for feedback on their online learning and the reopening of schools.

Dr. Markwardt also warned the board that the start date for the 2020-21 school year may be later than expected and is looking to have a recommendation ready within the week.

No decision had been made as of the June 24 meeting, but Dr. Markwardt said it is possible that school may not begin until right after Labor Day (Sept. 7).

As for the building upgrades, Mr. Whelan presented the project, which totals just under $50,000.

At Westwood and Lindsey elementary schools, the district will have pass-through windows installed from the outside of the buildings, Mr. Whelan said, along with sneeze guards at the office counters.

At the high school, Mr. Whelan said the district is looking to put pass-through windows between the entry doors and the doors that separate the main hallway from the building at the attendance and main offices.

“[This will] allow items to be passed through in the building without necessarily having to go into those offices,” he said, adding that the board office’s reception area at the middle school will also receive installations of pass-through windows.

When looking at changes for the middle school, Mr. Whelan said the district is looking to move some administrative offices at the main entrance near the board offices to utilize an existing vestibule for better control of visitors.

Currently at the middle school, visitors must walk through a stretch of hallway along the cafeteria then take a turn down another hallway before reaching any staff members at the main office.

“That’s a health and safety concern as far as entering that particular building,” Mr. Whelan said. “Especially [in] a year where we really need to be looking at traffic control for people coming into our buildings [because of COVID-19].”

Mr. Whelan explained that with the construction changes, visitors will enter into the vestibule then enter a new door on the left that takes them into what is currently a classroom that will be converted into the main office.

The main office will include a waiting area where visitors will be buzzed in or out of the building and a counter with a pass-through window, which will allow visitors to drop off or receive items without entering the rest of the building or coming into direct contact with staff or students, he explained.

Attached to the main office, he said, would be the principal’s office in the next room over.

With the move of some of the administrative offices, Mr. Whelan said the vacated spaces could be converted into an additional clinic for the middle school. He said the schools may need an additional clinic as a requirement for reopening in the fall for students who may exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

The move of offices, he said, will cost approximately $20,000.

Mr. Whelan said that in these offices, the district is also looking to make some electrical and HVAC improvements.

Electrical work will include reworking the networks, security and phone lines, the installation of LED lighting and circuits for outlets and roof servicing for an air conditioning condenser, all of which will cost about $12,000, he said.

HVAC upgrades include the installation of two new Carrier 410A ductless split systems to provide heating and cooling to both the main and principal’s offices, which will cost about $18,000.

Mr. Whelan said the district still needs to receive at least three quotes for the entire project, but because the total is just under $50,000, the district will not need to send it out to bid.

The next West Geauga BOE meeting will be July 13 at 7 p.m., held virtually via Zoom.

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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