Dear Orange Families,
I hope this message finds you well. We have gotten the school year off the ground, and I look forward to what lies ahead. At the end of July when I announced that the District was going to begin the year in full remote learning, I shared the intent of doing so for the first semester. Reasoning included the uncertainty around the spread and impact of COVID-19 in our area as well as the anticipation of a large volume of extended absences of staff and students, especially with the onset of flu season ahead. Likewise, health risk factors could limit our human resources, making adequate staffing a challenge. Furthermore, if we return to Level 3 (red) or higher, we will implement full remote learning as we have thus far. In addition to the above concerns, there is the concern over the possibility of going back and forth from full remote to hybrid models, which will have an impact on student anxiety over consistency and family arrangements. Also, it is important to note that remote learning as originally described for the hybrid model, when teachers would be teaching remote and in-person students simultaneously, will not look exactly the same as the current full remote delivery. The hybrid remote and in-person schedules will be released soon.
In the present, there have been improvements in Cuyahoga County. On Friday, August 21st, Cuyahoga County’s designation on the Ohio Public Alert Advisory System was reduced to Level 2, orange, for the first time since the system was activated for COVID-19. If you visit the website, be sure to select Cuyahoga County, as it defaults to Franklin County. As of today, two weeks later, the county is still rated at Level 2. Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) officials said they still stand by remote learning at this point. They also said for us to not anticipate them coming out announcing otherwise. However, they reported to superintendents today that Dr. Johnie Rose and Dr. Gullett are working with their staff on back-to-school guidance for schools to use when planning to return to in-person learning. They do not have a date for the release of this guidance, but they said they will release it as soon as possible.
Based on past conversations with CCBH, one important piece of this guidance will likely be to look for a trend of about three-four weeks instead of deciding on an immediate move to orange. In addition to local concerns, sustained decline in new cases, sustained decline in new cases per 100,000 and positivity rate under 5% are important criteria to monitor, and will likely be part of the guidelines. I will share this information as soon as we receive it. I still want to reiterate that being at Levels 3 or 4, red or purple, would still keep us in full remote learning regardless of where we are in the return discussion.
With the first quarter set to end October 16th, the second quarter seems like a logical point to consider returning, commencing October 19th at the quarter transition instead of the semester. If this comes to fruition, as stated in a previous communication, we would give a two-week notice to prepare for the transition to the hybrid model, including the in-person blended option. That announcement would presumably take place on October 5th if conditions allow. In this two week transition time, teachers will prepare students for the transition, also ensuring that they and their students have solidified their remote learning skills and habits since some students will remain remote and the rest may find themselves back in this model. Families can also use this time to adapt, as needed, to the impact of this transition on their childcare and other arrangements. Finally, we would also submit our return plan to the CCBH for guidance on whether or not our plan for returning is appropriate at that time. If the county and local conditions still support it, we could move ahead.
While this measured approach would be an option for possibly returning, I know there are many parents who have committed to their current arrangement for the semester since that was what was originally communicated. Registration results from July reflected 73% of students would attend in-person for the AM/PM cohorts. This is with responses for about 200 students still not submitted, so depending on those results, this could be as low at 63%. We are now faced with the question of “when:”
Do we stick to the semester for transition after we know more about COVID-19 and the impact on our area and other reasons listed in the opening paragraph, taking the guesswork out of it for parents?
Or, do we come back sooner in a manner described above?
Whenever we return, we will take a measured approach, going back only after there is a clear trend of not being red or heading back that way. Finally, while the county’s overall rating has improved, the positivity rate, critical care bed use and ventilator use all fluctuated recently. Click here to see the alert system indicators overview. Remember to please join me and the principals via Facebook Live on Thursday, September 10th at 6 PM for a discussion about the first couple weeks of remote learning and how it is going. We will also have a discussion about the questions above, which will be part of the subsequent Board of Education meeting on Monday, September 14th. Please stay tuned for more details in the days ahead. Thanks for your patience and understanding in these tough times. Your support is greatly appreciated!
Dr. Lynn Campbell
Orange City Schools