PEPPER PIKE — Orange City School District Superintendent Lynn Campbell has established a back to school discussion group to help guide the planning for classes this fall. With future restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic still unknown, he said that the district needs to be prepared for a variety of options, including all online learning, all in person learning and hybrid models.

The discussion group includes members of the Academic Committee, teachers, representatives from the teachers’ union and a dozen parents. Dr. Campbell said that this discussion group will be well-informed because of the variety of stakeholders involved. Even if schools fully reopen for in person classes, he said that many parents may not feel comfortable sending their students to classes. This uncertainty has led him to develop a district survey to see what parents are planning for this fall.

“The governor said that the goal is to have everyone back in school,” Dr. Campbell said at the Board of Education meeting on Monday. “The question I had is, ‘Would you or would you not send your child?’ And secondly, if you’re a bus student and you’re sending your child, ‘Would you put them on a bus or not?’”

The superintendent said that the district needs to gauge how many students it can expect for attendance and for bus routes. There is still so much uncertainty around regulations for schools from Gov. Mike DeWine, the General Assembly and the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Campbell said, so it is worth spending a little more time to gather this information before making definite plans for the fall. The discussion group will discuss topics such as teaching schedules, foot traffic in the hallways and social distancing in classrooms.

Board member Deborah Kamat asked if the governor is requiring the districts to bring children back to school in the fall. Dr. Campbell said that the governor wants the students back in school, but when they return is up to each district. There was the possibility of a universal start date but Gov. DeWine later backed away from that idea.

Board member Melanie Weltman asked when the district can inform parents about their plans, whether they are on campus, online or a hybrid model. She said that parents who work need to set up childcare plans if their kids will be at home.

“I know I’ve had probably more inquiries about what the school year will look like than I’ve ever had about any issue since I’ve been on the school board,” she said.

Dr. Campbell said that he is hoping for much more information from the state before the school board’s July 13 meeting. Ms. Weltman said it is likely best to plan for various options.

The superintendent said that the district learned how to improve its online learning strategies in the spring semester. For example, when the parents were surveyed, they said that they needed a more streamlined system for where information can be found online. Dr. Campbell gave an example of if 60 percent of the students attended classes regularly and 40 percent learned virtually this fall, there must be a plan in place for teacher scheduling.

“We’re not alone in this,” Board President Beth Wilson-Fish said. “There are 608 districts in the same predicament as us.”

The next school board meeting is on June 29 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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