Superintendent Lynn Campbell sent an anonymous survey to Orange City School District parents on Friday to gather information about student vaccinations. School starts on Aug. 23, and district officials are planning the fall return to school as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and state leaders loosen up masking and social distancing guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends mask for unvaccinated people, especially in areas where community transmission is high, Dr. Campbell said at the Board of Education meeting on Monday. Masks are the “primary mitigation strategy,” he said, and it is important to protect unvaccinated people. At this time, COVID-19 vaccines are only approved for people ages 12 and older.

“Distancing should not keep kids out of school,” Dr. Campbell said in summary of the CDC’s recommendations. “So, they recommend at least keeping 3 feet but understand a lot of the schools can’t. They said they wouldn’t keep kids out of school. They are putting their priority on in-person learning.”

Orange has not yet announced its masking guidelines for the return to school this fall.

He said that the community surrounding the district is in a “very good spot” regarding the COVID-19 case count. The district includes Hunting Valley, Orange Village, Pepper Pike, Woodmere, most of Moreland Hills and parts of Solon, Bedford Heights and Warrensville Heights. The Orange schools encompass three ZIP codes, including 44122, 44022 and 44124.

“We’ve been at either a 1-percent or lower positivity rate. We’re in a very good spot. As far as transmission, we’re below 10. We’re at 6.89 cases per 100,000 [people], which is a very great number,” he said. “I know the fear is transmission between kids in the building. If there is not transmission in the community, would there be said transmission in the building?”

Board President Rebecca Boyle said that faculty and staff at the schools and high school students have had plenty of time to get vaccinated. Dr. Campbell said that the school district has a responsibility not to fuel community spread, such as spreading the virus at school then students bring it home to their relatives.

“They should be vaccinated,” Dr. Boyle said of the relatives.

The risk for community transmission is much lower now, Dr. Campbell said, and the district still has mitigation strategies in place. This includes the Reme Halo air filtration system.

Board member Jeff Leikin said that if some students do wear masks and some don’t, some students could face verbal abuse or feel stigmatized.

“Maybe their parents don’t believe in vaccinations or maybe they’re Christian scientists or something,” Mr. Leikin said. “We have to think about that.”

Dr. Boyle said she had a “very spirited” discussion with parents of students at Moreland Hills Elementary School. The parents said that they would want to know whether their child’s teacher is vaccinated. Some parents said that they would not want the virus to be transmitted from an unvaccinated teacher, while others said they would not want their child to have a teacher who does not believe in science.

“I don’t think we can tell you if a teacher’s been vaccinated, but they wanted to know,” Dr. Boyle said. Treasurer Todd Puster agreed, adding that a vaccination record is private health information. Dr. Campbell said that he receives emails from parents on both sides of the aisle. Some parents tell him that masks should be required, while others say that they will withdraw their children from the Orange schools if masks are required.

Brady Middle School Principal Brian Frank attended the meeting and said that he will start mailing out back to school information on Aug. 2. District officials are awaiting guidance from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

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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