Tallmadge school board affirms reopening hybrid plan as teachers prepare for students

Tallmadge High School

TALLMADGE — The school board has affirmed that the schools will proceed with the approved hybrid plan, but parents will be given more time to choose the online plan if they have changed their minds.

Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said at Wednesday’s special board meeting that he received additional guidance and recommendations from the Summit County Public Health on Monday and reviewed those options. The school board asked Ferguson to revisit the plans for the school district.

Donna Skoda, health commissioner of the Summit County Public Health, said she approved the plan, Ferguson said.

“It was based on layers [of safety] and our ability to create safety in the hybrid plan,” Ferguson said. “For a district to run a hybrid she [Skoda] was looking for, we had or exceeded her expectations in the plan.”

Tallmadge School District has the mandatory masks, 6-foot distancing, and key things in the new buildings like ventilation and spacing to keep students safe, he said. Classes are scheduled to begin resuming Aug. 26.

Ferguson said Skoda would “be very supportive of this plan for opening. As a hybrid plan, she said ours met or exceeded everything she would look for in a hybrid plan and we were blessed with resources other districts did not have.”

Board member Christy Cipa asked for the district to allow open enrollment again in case those who choose to come to school have second thoughts.

Ferguson said the Tallmadge Online link will be on the web and the Tallmadge Schools Reopening Plan is listed on the school website for those with questions. Back to School packets go home on Thursday. The Tallmadge Ready Together Plan is on the web and families can email staff who are in the buildings now.

Families who had already made a choice can make changes by going to the school website at www.tallmadgeschools.org.

Sports have not changed with low-risk sports moving forward and training for high-risk sports at the level 3 protocols with a recommendation for competition to begin Oct. 1, Ferguson said.

“We want to do what is right for kids, family, and staff,” said board member Chris Tywon. “I think we have a really well thought out plan. We’ve given the option for kids to go to school or stay at home. I’m excited to hear the response from the health board. I’m liking this level 2 and I think that’s where we ought to be.”

School board president Rick Kellar said the board received a lot of communications from families.

“We represent everybody,” Kellar said. “We as a board and school administration are aware this decision in the manner we reopen schools has a great impact on everyone in the district.”

Kellar said the best way to educate children is in front of teachers and with each other. He stressed that parents need to keep sick children home and to practice the same safe rules at home that students and staff will practice at school.

“We need everyone to lean into this seriously,” Kellar said. “It’s necessary for you to follow those guidelines and be an example to your children and neighbors.”

If numbers spike, the district will be at level 3, he said.

“Nobody in this community prefers that,” he said. “We need to support each other. If a parent opts to keep a child at home, let’s assume it’s a good reason and don’t battle on social media. We don’t know their situation or reason for choices.”

Teachers are essential workers, Cipa said.

“We depend on you to teach our children in the best way to be successful and the best way to do that is face to face,” she said. “The board and parents appreciate you.”

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