Tallmadge school board finalizes reopening plans

LAURA FREEMAN Reporter
Tallmadge schools will open in August at a Level 2 with a mixture of in-person and online students. Details are available at www.tallmadgeschools.org.

TALLMADGE – Children will be able to return to classrooms after the school board July 29 unanimously passed the plan presented for reopening the schools.

Superintendent Jeff Ferguson initially presented the plan July 15 with questions answered at a July 20 Town Hall special meeting. He reviewed the highlights of the reopening plan for the board.

“We are in this together and being ready together,” Ferguson said. “This is a lot of hardship and sacrifice for everyone involved, but it’s about keeping students and staff safe and learning.”

Multiple layers of protection will be in place with health screening, physical distancing, hand washing, surface disinfection, face coverings, ventilation, keeping groups small and limiting access to the building, he said.

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 schools would open in the district at 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.

New teachers will report Aug. 12 with all teachers reporting Aug 13. Students in K-5 will be phased in on Aug. 26, 27 and 28 with all students reporting Aug. 31. Aug. 27 will be the first day for grades 6-12 if a blue day and Aug. 28 will be the first day for grades 6-12 if a gold day. The online academy would begin Aug. 27.

School times will be 7:20 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. for Tallmadge High School; 7:20 a.m. to 2:14 p.m. for Tallmadge Middle School and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Tallmadge Elementary School. Kindergarten will be split into two groups with one attending 9 to 11:30 a.m. and the second group meeting 12:30 to 3 p.m.

All the schools have bottle fillers and students are asked to bring water bottles, Ferguson said.

Breaks will be planned such as two 20-minute outdoor activity periods and 30-minute special classes of art, music, gym, and technology. Students will have movement breaks by their desks and when they are 6 feet apart, students can take off their masks. Tents will be set up outside for learning as well.

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.

The Tallmadge Online Academy would use two platforms, Lincoln Learning Solutions for grades K-5 and Ingenuity for grades 6-12, said Shelley Monachino of the office of teaching and learning. The programs are self-based with parent involvement for the younger students. School counselors would help students choose classes, and each student would receive a learning advocate to support students and families. Classes are taught by certified virtual teachers.

Monachino said 400 students or 17% have signed up for online learning and said they would use Tallmadge teachers to monitor progress, coach and help students and parents. They are extending registration for online classes until Aug. 5.

“We will offer Google Meet with students for socialization and different activities,” Monachino said. “We want to keep them connected. Teachers will have office hours, tutoring and answer questions.”

Each school will have two health clinics, one for typical health problems and the other for those with COVID-19 symptoms, Ferguson said.

Trained staff at each building will monitor and contact parents who can work with their family doctor or Akron Children’s Hospital and the Summit County Public Health, who will make decisions about COVID-19.

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.

The 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.

Summit County Public Health recently gave guidance about fall sports and the district is working on finalizing plans, Ferguson said.

The school’s reopening plan is available online at www.tallmadgeschools.org

The school board passed a face covering policy, separate from the reopening plan and part of the governor’s requirements for reopening schools. A teacher’s work day was added to the calendar in February 2021.

In addition, the school board passed an emergency resolution that because of COVID-19 no public participation would be allowed at board meetings but they could contact members and school staff through emails and phone calls.

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