Tallmadge City School District superintendent and staff answer parents' questions

Parents need to decide if their child will learn in-person at one of the Tallmadge schools or learn online. New protocols will be implemented such as social distancing, wearing a mask and not sharing supplies.

TALLMADGE – More details were revealed to help parents make decisions about sending their children to school this fall during the July 20 school board meeting.

Tallmadge School Board President Rick Kellar said after the plan was announced last week that residents had questions.

Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said parents submitted more than 500 questions with a large number answered during the meeting and listed below. Every question will be posted on the school’s website at www.tallmadgeschools.org under “frequently asked questions.” Phone calls or emails were used to respond to personal or unique questions. Parents are encouraged to reach out to school staff with concerns with names and information listed on the website www.tallmadgeschools.org or call 330-633-3291.

Ferguson said the reopening plan balances student safety and education.The school board will review and vote on the proposed plan July 29 at 6 p.m. in a special virtual meeting. The link to this virtual meeting is located on the website at www.tallmadgeschools.org

School levels, which indicate the danger of COVID-19, include Level 1 (the lowest) with students in person and in the building with safety protocols; Level 2 with some students in person and others online; and Level 3 (the highest risk) with all students distance learning.

Ferguson said his recommendation is for the district to reopen on Level 2.

That plan calls for kindergarten students to attend half a day while students in grades 1 through 5 would attend the full day every day. Students in grades 6-12 would be on a blue-gold schedule and would be face to face with teachers every other day or five out of 10 days in a two-week period. The blue-gold calendar is on the website.

In order to space students out more, students in fifth grade would be at the Tallmadge Middle School and eighth graders would be at the Tallmadge High School in their own wing.

Those students who choose to stay at home would attend Tallmadge Online Academy, Ferguson said. They would remain Tallmadge students and can participate in all Tallmadge schools’ sponsored activities.

The students would commit for a semester and remain at Tallmadge Online Academy even if schools are closed because of COVID-19. Parents are asked to commit to online learning for the semester by July 24. They can transition back into the building for the second semester.

Answers to frequently questions from community members

Families are asked to assess if their child is well enough to attend school, and every student, staff and visitor will have a temperature check when entering a school building. If a child has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, the child will be sent home. Adults will also be checked and not admitted if they have a temperature.

If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the Summit County Public Health Department takes over and begins contact tracing. They must give the student permission to return to school.

Summit County Public Health could cause a district, county or state shutdown, which would be triggered by a spike in cases. The health department will notify the schools if someone tests positive. They will contact families and notify of any quarantine.

“We will lean on the health experts to make some of those determinations,” Kellar said.

Custodians will be cleaning common areas and teachers, students and others will help with cleaning. Through Dec. 31, no outside groups or after-hours activities will be allowed in the buildings to keep them clean.

Every student riding a bus must wear a mask and seats are assigned with a maximum of two students per seat. Family members will sit together, and buses will be loaded from back to front. Windows will be cracked to allow for flow of air. Hand sanitizer will be available when entering school.

Parents need to fill out a busing form so the district can assign routes, Ferguson said.

Everyone in the schools will need to wear masks to add a layer of protection for everyone, he said. They must fit snuggly around the nose and mouth. When students are 6 feet apart and no one is moving around them, they can remove the mask.

“We will work on mask etiquette,” Ferguson said. “If they are working in small groups or traveling around the building, they wear a mask. We will build in mask breaks, especially in the elementary school.”

The blue and gold cohorts will be divided by last names but keep siblings with different last names together. Parents will know by Aug. 14 what cohort their child is in, said Shelley Monachino, director of teaching and learning.

Career and Technical Education students can meet five days a week depending on the building and program. Transportation will be available to them if they fill out a bus form. Any academics at Tallmadge would follow the blue or gold cohort schedule.

Elementary students will attend five days a week and will have minimal movement in the building with two 20-minute breaks with structured activities to maintain distance.

All students will have their own supplies and will not share them. The principals will send out lists to parents of supplies needed. Lockers will be color coded to keep social distancing by sending groups by color, which will be spaced apart.

All the available space in the buildings is being used and markers will indicate 6 feet to maintain social distancing.

Chrome books are on back order but grades 5-12 have them now.

Lunch will be a grab and go type with parents paying online to maintain social distancing through lunch, Ferguson said.

Special activities like art, music and informational technology will look different with staff going into the room where students are already located instead of students moving to another classroom.

Kindergarten parents will be notified Aug. 1 whether their child is in the a.m. or p.m. group. Parents can make a request because of child care needs and the school will try to accommodate the time preferred.

Class sizes will be smaller for kindergarten to help with management and academics. Socialization and play are important and the task force is working on how a day will look for kindergarten students.

The district has the ability to use Tallmadge teachers as instructors for Tallmadge Online but it depends on how many students are in the program. It is a self-paced program and may not work for all families, Ferguson said.

“The sooner we know the amount of students in a grade that parents want online, the more effectively we can deploy our staff into the learning,” Kellar said.

Educational Service Consortium is the largest platform in Ohio and provides the best services for students, Monachino said. Tallmadge will use Lincoln and Ingenuity educational platforms. They have a wide variety of options for honor classes and AP classes.

“If we get enough students enrolled, we can use our own teachers and they will be instructed to use their platform,” Monachino said.

Parents can go to the Tallmadge school link “What will remote learning for my child look like?” for more information.

“This is a tough decision for parents and we want you to make the best decision,” Ferguson said. “You know your student best and your family situation. We want to give you the information so you can make the best decision for your family.”

This school year will not be normal and will be a challenge, Ferguson said. The staff will be accessible for all families whether online or in person.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com