After months of preparation, the Orange City School District implemented its hybrid learning model on Monday.

Last week, Superintendent Lynn Campbell said that if Cuyahoga County did not reach level four (purple) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System by Oct. 29, the district would begin its hybrid model – a combination of remote and in-person lessons – on Nov. 2. There is still a full remote option available to students.

Orange had been conducting all remote lessons since the beginning of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district was following directions from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health for when it is safe to reopen school. The board of health recommended virtual learning if Cuyahoga County was at level three (red). Dr. Campbell, however, began to question that when other local districts went back to school in person even though the county continues to be in the red zone.

The state alert system is based on the rate of increase and number of cases of COVID-19 in each county with yellow as the lowest, followed by orange, red and purple, the highest level.

Dr. Campbell received permission from the Board of Education to veer from the county’s recommendations and begin discussions with the Orange Teachers Association. Last Friday, the school board passed a revised memorandum of understanding with the teachers’ union, eliminating the clause that stated if the county was red, classes would be virtual. Board member Jeff Leikin said that in some situations, the district might not want the children in school buildings, such as if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 among students or parents.

“Likewise, I can foresee situations where regardless of the county’s designation, we all feel that we want the kids in school because we feel that we can teach our kids safely,” Mr. Leikin said. “It is your understanding that under this agreement, the [Orange Teachers Association] will be amenable to discuss changes for in-person teaching as the condition may change?”

Dr. Campbell said yes. He explained that the memorandum of understanding will be reviewed again by Dec. 18, and both parties have agreed to collaborate. According to the new agreement, the superintendent shall have full board authority to make changes with the teachers’ union after it is executed. The agreement is entered on a non-precedent basis and expires at the end of fiscal year 2021.

“In the event the county designation on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System elevates to purple, families and staff will be notified that same day that the full remote learning model will resume on the following Monday or subsequent work day if Monday is a holiday or day off,” according to the memorandum of understanding.

In a survey, about 70 percent of parents opted for the hybrid model. Two weeks ago, a handful of parents were protesting outside of the administration building and outside of a school board meeting at the Pepper Pike Learning Center to demand the hybrid plan.

In a video posted on the district website, Dr. Campbell gave a few additional tidbits of information. He reminded parents, students, faculty and staff that it is essential to do self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms. Parents who are dropping off students at Moreland Hills Elementary School and Brady Middle School are using Hiram Trail to enter the campus instead of Gail Allison Drive from Chagrin Boulevard.

Athletic Director Katie Hine is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that sports move forward in a safe manner, Dr. Campbell said. He also said that as long as the county has not reached level four (purple), they will have in-person learning.

“Always be prepared to return to the remote model of instruction,” Dr. Campbell said in his video message on Oct. 29. “I know this is hard for parents to make those family arrangements but please do so, so we can be fluid and we can be nimble to adjust as needed.”

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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