TWINSBURG – The new school year will be drastically different for 2020-21, due to the pandemic.
The older elementary grades will be taught at the high school, there will be no busing for high school students, with some exceptions, and the school year will officially start later, the district announced July 8. In addition, the Twinsburg City Schools will offer a virtual academy, both for parents who wish to keep their children at home, and for older students to use on days they are not in school.
The released plan is considered a draft, as the district is still seeking feedback from families, said Mark Curtis, school board president.
"Ultimately, parent feedback will drive our decisions moving forward, along with guidance from the appropriate state and local authorities," he said, adding the framework created was "not ideal by any means; however, we are doing the best we can under the circumstances."
Virtual forums on the reopening will be live streamed July 14 and 16 at 7 p.m. through the Twinsburg City Schools Board of Education YouTube page. Questions or comments can be submitted via www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us.
Superintendent Kathryn Powers stressed the plans are tentative and could change due to the pandemic, which resulted in the shuttering of school buildings back in March and forced schools throughout Ohio to adopt an online model to finish the 2019-20 school year.
One change for the upcoming school year is a new calendar, which was approved by the district’s school board July 6. The first official school day for students is Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, with a "soft reopening" over several days the week before. In the previous calendar, the first day of school was Aug. 19.
"We feel the need to assimilate our students back to school by facilitating smaller groups of students, most likely determined by the alphabet and by family groups, over this four-day period so our teachers can get to know their students, provide students with directions regarding new safety protocols such as social distancing requirements and proper handwashing techniques, assess students to determine early benchmarks, and to issue Chromebooks to students in grades kindergarten through eight," Powers said.
Two previously scheduled dates where students were not going to be in school — Oct. 19 and April 5 — are now regular school days, Powers said. The final day of school for students will remain May 27, the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend.
Currently, the district plans to provide all students in preschool through sixth grade in-building learning five days a week, Powers said. Students in seventh through 12th grades would attend in-building classes every other day and have online school with Blended Learning activities the alternating days. Powers added that students in seventh through 12th grades "with significant learning challenges as determined by their Individual Education Plans" will have the opportunity to have classes in the school buildings five days a week.
The district has reconfigured which students go to which buildings:
• Preschool and kindergarten students will still go to Wilcox Primary School.
• First graders will go to Bissell Elementary School.
• Students in second through sixth grade will have their classes at the high school.
• Seventh through ninth-graders will go to Dodge Intermediate School.
• The district’s 10th through 12th graders will go to R.B. Chamberlin Middle School.
Because of the space restrictions needed due to social distancing requirements, the district will not bus ninth through 12th graders for the next school year, with the exception of transportation provided for students as defined in IEPs, transportation provided for students who attend classes at the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center and transportation for athletics and co/extra-curricular activities, Powers said.
Masks will be required for teachers and staff, Powers said. Facial coverings will be strongly recommended for third through 12th graders while in school, and masks will be strongly recommended for all students riding the school buses.
"This language was adopted from Gov. Mike DeWine’s statement of last week," Powers said. "Please note that the Twinsburg Board of Education will authorize a policy regarding the wearing of masks prior to the start of the school year." This policy, Powers added, may be different from the information released July 8.
DeWine announced the state’s criteria for schools during a press conference July 2.
Online academy and survey
For families who would be more comfortable with remote learning the district will offer its Twinsburg City School District Virtual Academy, Powers said. This option "will provide students with high-quality distance learning opportunities taught by our Twinsburg City School District educators for the duration of the 2020-21 school year."
Powers said that the district needs families to fill out a form to declare whether they would prefer the in-person or online option; the link can be found at www.twinsburg.k12.oh.us/, under the parent’s tab in the link about school reopening and updated COVID-19 information. A separate survey must be submitted for each child.
"I realize that it may be difficult for you to commit to a decision," Powers said. "However, the declaration of your intent for your child(ren) will assist our school district in planning for the upcoming school year."
Surveys should be completed by 5 p.m. on July 17.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A survey conducted at the end of the last school year showed that nearly 61% of around 1,700 parents wanted to send their children back to school this year. About 35% were uncertain and the remainder said they did not want to or would likely request other accommodations for health reasons.
Of 1,623 respondents to questions on remote learning, 92.5% stated that keeping their children interested and engaged was the biggest worry. Lack of childcare during the school day and being able to support their children also were cited as concerns. Access to internet or Wi-Fi was a concern for 3.7% of respondents.
When broken down by grade level, from 65% to 70% of respondents stated they were comfortable with minimal or no concerns or comfortable with concerns, with in-person instruction. The remainder said they were somewhat comfortable or not at all comfortable with in-person instruction.