Berkshire Board of Education members on Monday approved the Responsible Return to School Plan for the 2020-21 academic school year that gives students choices.

Superintendent John Stoddard presented board members with plans which will allow students the option of choosing their semester fully online or in-person. A remote learning contingency is also in place in case schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, we have heard a lot of support from the parents about the Responsible Return Plan,” said Mr. Stoddard. “Approximately 75 percent of our parents are opting for in-person learning and approximately 25 percent of our parents are opting for virtual learning.”

A multi-layered approach to safety will be used, which includes cloth masks, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting and hand-washing. Staff will be taking their own temperatures, and temperature checks for students will be required to be performed by parents at home.

In preparation for the returning students, the school district plans to change the cleaning and sanitation routines. The purchase of new sanitation equipment and more hand sanitizing stations will be added throughout the schools.

Electrostatic sprayers have been purchased for sanitation and disinfection efforts and will be utilized in each school building, buses and at the board office.

Should any student or staff become ill, “the Geauga County Health Department will be doing the trace testing,” Mr. Stoddard said, “and will stay in communication with the school district and advise us to what to do in terms of students or staff who either test positive, or are exposed to someone who tests positive.”

The elementary school day has been adjusted to 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Reductions to class sizes will be put in place spreading the special subjects teachers out into grade levels, with lunch spread into the commons and gym areas to allow for social distancing.

The junior and senior high school day is adjusted to 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with an implementation of an alternating double block schedule to cut the amount of class switching per day in half. They will alternate between gold and purple weeks in order to allow classes to meet evenly over the course of 10 school days, according to the plan. There will be staggered release times for classes and one-way directions in hallways.

Berkshire also plans to be ready to serve families who may not feel comfortable with their children returning to in-person classes. Badger Virtual Academy will be launched in the fall, which will be focused on students in grades kindergarten through 12 for full online immersion, with some optional in-person labs or check-in times for those students who need extra assistance.

More specific information about how to enroll in the Badger Virtual Academy along with details for the online learning platform will be shared in the next few weeks, the superintendent said.

The first day of classes is scheduled for Sept. 8.

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