HUDSON – While the aim is to have Hudson’s Explorers in the school buildings five days a week, there will be online options in case there are times this isn’t possible, or for families who prefer their children take all their classes from home.
The Hudson school board unanimously approved its reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year at its July 27 meeting.
In general, the district plans to follow the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, said Superintendent Phil Herman. The governor’s office created a color-coded system for the state’s 88 counties that indicate the amount of risk of exposure to COVID-19. The colors, from least to most severe, are yellow, orange, red and purple.
The district plans to have school five days a week at yellow and orange, or Levels 1 and 2, will switch to a hybrid model at Level 3, or red, and will go completely remote at Level 4, or purple. As of press time, Summit County was at Level 2, or orange. To date, no county in Ohio has been rated Level 4 purple.
Herman said this would be a guide "but other factors will be considered." It might become necessary, for example, to close one building down.
According to a survey conducted by the district, about 74% of families said they wished to send their children back five days a week, with about 6% saying they would prefer to do all classes remotely, and with about 19% undecided. Parents willing to send their children back in a hybrid mode, with part of the week in the schools and part of the week online, was 77.5%. Nearly 6% would prefer remote, with 13% undecided.
The schools will maintain a 3-foot distance between desks when school is in session five days a week, Herman said. When they have to go to a hybrid model due to elevated risk, spacing will be 6 feet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends between 3- to 6-feet social distances in the schools.
Herman said it would be possible to do 6 feet of social distancing with all of the students in the buildings, "but we would have to use all the spaces in the school, including the gym, the cafeterias, the media center," and that would not be a good environment for the students. Instead, if the district needs to switch to a hybrid model, students would be divided by their last names and attend school either Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday, with alternating Fridays. When they are not in school, learning would be conducted remotely.
Families will be kept together, Herman added. "We know we have families that have students with different last names."
If the district’s students have to go to all remote learning, Herman said, academic expectations "are still in full force," including with grading and report cards. There would be no large gatherings, no sports, no extracurriculars and school access will be limited.
However, the online learning environment will be different, and more rigorous, than it was this past spring, said Doreen Osmun, assistant superintendent.
"One of the main things we heard in the spring surveys is that parents wanted more consistency," Osmun said.
Google Classroom will be "the main mode of teaching," Osmun said, and there will be both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Teachers will have mandatory Zoom meetings with their students at a certain time set by the teachers.
Osmun said that when classes are operating under a hybrid model, classes will be livestreamed so students at home can watch their classes at the same time as their peers.
The district will "move forward with a block schedule" at the middle and high schools to cut down on class transitions, Osmun said. In addition, should classes have to go completely to remote learning, the block scheduling should hopefully help students not have homework "piled on them."
Breakfast and lunch assistance will be available to students requiring it if the district is teaching in remote or hybrid form, Herman said.
Masks will be required of all students when they are on the buses and in the hallways of the schools. Masks will not be required of prekindergarten students while they are in the classroom. For all other students, masks are required while in the building, with classroom mask breaks when practical, while eating and while outside with 6 feet of social distancing.
Medical exemptions for face coverings need to be obtain from the family’s health care provider and submitted to the school clinic staff, for students, or human resources for staff.
Families of students and staff must monitor their health, and if they are feeling ill or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they need to stay home, Herman said.
"We will work with families on sick days," Herman said. "We want people to stay at home if they are exhibiting any COVID symptoms."
Herman said that students and staff must be fever free without medication. "If it’s the Tylenol keeping the fever down, please keep them at home."
Currently, families and staff are asked to conduct self-health checks at home but if there is community spread the schools may start taking temperatures at school, Herman said.
Health care centers in the schools are being reconfigured into separate areas, Herman said. One is for students who need to go to take routine maintenance medications, and another area for sick students.
Students should bring their own water bottles, Herman said. The district is in the process of installing no-touch water bottle filler fountains but drinking fountains will not be functional.
In general, visitors will not be permitted; if someone has to come to the school they will be strictly limited and kept to the main office, and volunteers "will be restricted to essential functions," Herman said.
The cafeteria will be open but under reduced capacity, and there will be opportunities for increased hand washing, Herman said. In addition, there will be no field trips until further notice. There will be no shared school supplies.
There will be two students per seat on buses when the district is conducting classes five days a week, with only one student per seat when the district is operating under the hybrid model. Hand sanitizer will be available on the buses, and windows will be cracked open for ventilation when possible. Families will be seated together when possible.
Call the transportation center at 330-653-3355 for questions or information on school busing.
Families wishing to have their students take all of their courses remotely must commit to a semester, at the middle and high schools, or a trimester, at the elementary schools, Herman said. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will receive instruction through a Hudson schools teacher. Students in sixth through 12-grade will participate in a program paid for by the district, which will be implemented by a Hudson schools teacher. Classes for kindergarten through fifth grade will have the same curriculum and pacing as their peers taking classes in the school buildings. For sixth grade and older, the curriculum will be the same but the pacing may be different. Ultimately, the teachers for the online classes will be different from the teachers having classes in the schools.
Students taking all of their classes online can still participate in extracurriculars and athletics, Herman said.
Parents wishing to send their children to school and use the district’s bus transportation do not need to take any action, Herman said. However, for parents wishing to provide their own transportation, or for those who wish to go fully online, need to let the district know of their intentions by Aug. 7.
Families wanting to learn more about the virtual learning options can participate in Zoom meetings July 30 at 8 a.m., and Aug. 3 at 1 p.m.
Kindergarten orientation will be done over Zoom on Aug. 19. There will be a virtual learning orientation for enrolled students Aug. 20.
Virtual open house for Ellsworth and East Woods elementary schools is Aug. 24 from 4 to 6 p.m.; virtual open house for East Woods and Evamere is Aug. 26 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Virtual open house for the high school is Aug. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. Virtual open house for the middle school is Sept. 2 for sixth grade, Sept. 9 for seventh grade, and Sept. 10 for eighth grade, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Visit www.hudson.k12.oh.us for details and links to the meetings.
The district will have a staggered start on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, with the student population divided alphabetically, and with all students reporting to school on Sept. 2, if all goes well, Herman said. This calendar change, as well as making Nov. 24 and 25 class days instead of professional development days, also was approved by the school board July 27. School was originally going to start Aug. 26.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org