Stow-Munroe Falls School District teachers, students adapting to changes

Superintendent say he's 'proud' of principals, staff, students

Laura Freeman
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls City School District students return to school wearing masks and keeping desks distanced.

STOW – The students who are back in person in the classrooms are adapting to the new rules.

Superintendent Tom Bratten updated the Stow-Munroe Falls School Board at its Sept. 14 meeting about changes because of COVID-19.

“There have been a lot of moving parts these past couple weeks,” Bratten said. “We had at least four first days across the district. I’m proud of the principals, staff and students.”

Students are taking the wearing of masks seriously and doing what the teachers and staff ask of them, Bratten said. Parents have been cautious and called their children off when they are sick.

“We’ve had hiccups but this is not what we’re built to do so we had to rebuild ourselves,” Bratten said.

One of the hiccups was the internet going down one day and shutting down online instruction, he said. It was a contract with Neonet and a lot of school districts had the same problem.

“It’s frustrating because everyone is stuck,” Bratten said.

About 78% or just under 4,200 students, are attending in-person in the school buildings under the Maroon program, said Laura Forchione, director of technology integration and public relations. The school district is operating on its hybrid learning model, where students attend in-person two days per week while attending remotely three days a week. 

“We will continue to follow the Ohio Public Health Advisory System and their color coding of counties as we proceed throughout the year,” Forchione said. 

The district is following a hybrid plan when the state's risk level for Summit County is red or orange.The district as of now is sticking with that hybrid plan.

Stow-Munroe Falls City School District students sit in the cafeteria socially distanced and wear masks.

About 22% or just under 1,200 students are taking part in the Gold (online/remote) program and things are going well so far, she said.

“We are continuing to improve on it as we go and wanted our first two weeks back to really be less about the work and more about focusing on re-acclimating to the school setting and touching base with the social-emotional needs of our staff and students,” Forchione said. 

The Gold and Maroon plan students and teachers are adapting and doing well and the district plans to offer both modes of education for the spring 2021 semester if needed, Forchione said.  

Teacher are working in Google classes and scheduling Gold classes and students, said Julie Miller, curriculum supervisor.

“This is a year where every teacher is a new teacher,” Miller said. “They help each other to identify issues and help solve them.”

Bratten said initially everyone focused on being back in school and took their time getting started but now they are focusing on lessons.

“Everyone is doing a good job of adjusting and the work will ramp up,” Bratten said. “I urge parents if you’re struggling, talk with the teacher first and get on the same page. If that doesn’t work, then call your child's principal and work through the process.”

A lot of time was focused on new routines and creating a "new normal" for the staff and students in an attempt to keep them safe and healthy, Forchione said. 

“We continue to shift our practices and our process as new things come about and we recognize that 2020 is a year all about flexibility and safety, and we continue to prioritize that,” she said. “We have appreciated that most of the parents have seemed to really understand that we are doing the best that we can in an incredibly difficult time.” 

Even with all the changes, teachers and staff are trying to make sure students have their academic and social-emotional needs met, she said.

“Our students are ecstatic to be back in the classroom, in a routine and being able to see their friends and teachers each week,” Forchione said. “Our staff has been really excited to be here with our students and one another as well.”

Students in the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District social distance when lining up outside.

Bratten said they are taking precautions to keep students in school and appreciate residents practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands and doing health checks before sending a child to school.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us right now and it's important that we are able to lean on and be there for each other,” Forchione said. “It isn't ideal by any means, but I know that while they are very stressed to be doing so much varied work right now, they are also very happy to be with their colleagues and students again. We have amazing students and staff, and very supportive parents and I am incredibly proud of and thankful for all of them.”

Bratten told parents in a video before school began that "everyone is in this together. We will succeed and that’s what we will try to do. We will work through each setback and challenge and try to get better from experience. Bulldogs are tenacious and that tenacity will help us survive in the 2020-21 school year." 

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