Cuyahoga Falls schools going all-remote for first few weeks

Decision follows county health recommendations

Cuyahoga Falls City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols speaks during a board of education meeting that occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic. The district recently released a plan detailing how it would help students during the summer.

Cuyahoga Falls City Schools have decided to start the school year with all-remote learning for students K-12 instead of the in-person and remote options decided upon earlier.

In an all-call sent to parents Thursday night, Superintendent Todd Nichols announced that in light of the Summit County Public Health’s recommendations for what is needed for schools to reopen, released by the health district Monday, K-12 students in the Cuyahoga Falls schools will open the school year online, and not in-person, through Friday, Sept. 25.

In addition, the start of the school year will be pushed back to Aug. 31.

Students in the Black Tiger Remote Learning Academy will begin the school year also on Aug. 31.

The SCPH outlined its school reopening recommendations for Summit County school districts, noting the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the community, putting students, teachers, staff and the community at risk. While children are less likely to experience adverse outcomes like death, the likelihood of infection has increased, it said.

SCPH strongly recommended that Summit County K-12 schools begin the 2020-21 academic year online and not in-person in order to decrease the risk of disease transmission and spread.

Summit County has been in the red or orange categories in the Public Health Advisory System throughout July. In both the red and orange categories, the recommendation is to decrease interactions outside of the household.

“Yesterday, our Return to School 2020 Task Force met and discussed SCPH’s recommendations,” Nichols said. “ ... While I am aware that this decision may not be embraced by everyone, I feel it is important to align with the recommendations of our health experts. I cannot bring our students and staff back to the classroom when Summit County Public Health’s preferred recommendation is that we start online.”

If pandemic conditions improve in September, the district said it will prepare for a “soft start” with face-to-face instruction beginning the week of Sept. 28. Nichols said this would provide appropriate time for staff to introduce COVID-19 procedures and expectations with students to ensure a safe return. Information would be provided to parents during the week prior to the soft start.

“Our goal is to move back into our original ‘Return to School 2020’ plan, or a blended version, for the remainder of the year,” Nichols told parents.

The change in the start date, Nichols explained, will give the staff, who report on Aug. 17, adequate time to adjust their plans to meet the new requirements. During the week of Aug. 24, they will engage in online orientation, kindergarten screening and building both student and staff relationships. During the period of online learning for all students, staff will still report daily to their respective schools to teach their classes. They will also participate in professional development activities and prepare both live and recorded instruction for all students.

Nichols said the plan to postpone moderate to high contact sports to Oct. 1 is remaining in place.

“We will continue to be in discussions with Summit County Public Health to determine when our district can resume in-person learning,” said Nichols. “As always, our highest priority will be directed to the health and safety of our students, staff and community.”