Hudson schools mull return to five days in-person classes

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Superintendent Phil Herman, in his Tuesday video address, said the school board will consider whether the district should move from a hybrid model to five days of in-person instruction a week.

HUDSON – The Hudson Board of Education will weigh the possibility of having students return to in-person schooling five days a week at its Oct. 12 meeting. Meanwhile, parents are being asked to give their feedback on the district’s current hybrid system.

Families are encouraged to submit their opinions on having their children return to school five days a week in a survey that will be available online in the near future, said Superintendent Phil Herman in a video message posted Tuesday. Currently, students who are enrolled in the in-person schooling option are attending class in-person twice a week in staggered schedules, and taking courses online for the remaining three days. Visit https://www.hudson.k12.oh.us/ for details on the school plan and coming survey.

“Back on Aug. 10, the Board of Education passed a resolution that we would begin the school year in hybrid instruction,” Herman said. “At that time, we shared that parents should expect that we will be in the hybrid through at least the end of September.”

Sheryl Sheatzley, the manager of communications and alumni outreach, said the school board “had a very productive work session last Thursday to look at all the data that we have at this time.”

"The board is continuing to gather data that will help their thinking about this topic and we will be asking parents to provide feedback as part of data that will be considered,” Sheatzley said.

Herman said that “the hybrid model is challenging for some students, whether that be academically, from a whole mental health perspective or social emotionally.”

“Since the beginning of school, there have been some good signs for schools in our region,” Herman said. “We're watching closely the school districts in our area and around the state that have opened all-in, whether that be Wadsworth or Aurora or Revere, and looking at their cases of COVID as compared to our cases of COVID, and finding either similar rates or lower rates in those three examples, that's a good sign.”

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Hudson City Schools has “been very manageable” in the first four weeks, Herman said. So far, the district has seen nine student cases and two staff cases between the beginning of the school year and Monday.

“The best part of examining those situations is the fact that to our knowledge, as we do contact tracing, in each one of these cases, they have not been cases of in-school spread,” Herman said. “So that's a really important indicator and something for us to watch closely.”

Few of the mitigation strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be changed if the district does start classes in-person five days a week, Herman said.

“From the beginning of the school year, we have layered the recommended main mitigating strategies or safety protocols, including assessing for symptoms, consistent use of masks, social distancing to the greatest extent possible -- and that means six feet in our classrooms currently -- enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and hand washing and hand sanitizing,” Herman said. “Additionally, there are secondary mitigating strategies that have included the limiting of sharing of school supplies, limiting visitors, increased outside air ventilation, installation of water bottle fillers and hand wash stations, installation of physical barriers, pre-packaged meals for all food service, and limiting students to one-per-seat on the bus.”

The biggest difference, Herman said, would be that the physical distancing in the classroom would go from 6 feet to a minimum of 3 feet.

“In some classrooms we'd be able to be at 4 or 5 feet to have all students in,” Herman said. “That would be the primary change to our mitigating factors.”

Also, while six feet social distancing would be maintained when students are eating lunch, some students may need to eat their meals in other locations, “as some are right now, at the auxiliary gym for example at the high school.”

“We would need to do some arrangements like that in each of our buildings to make sure that our students are 6 feet apart while they're eating,” Herman said.

In addition, there is a chance that students may be bused at two per seat, Herman said.

“As long as the ridership stays similar to what it is, we would still be able to stay at one student per seat on the bus in almost every single route, and possibly every single route,” Herman said. “But if ridership increases, then we could have some situations where we would have two students proceed on a bus.”

With the all-in model, there was a chance that a positive case could potentially lead to more students having to quarantine, Herman said.

“When there's a current positive case, students who are within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more of a positive case need to be quarantined for 14 days,” Herman said. “Based on the cases we have had, we've had a limited number of quarantined students and we know that if we're all-in and there's a positive case, it is likely that more students will have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes, so more students could be quarantined and need to participate in remote learning.”

The school board meets at 7 p.m. in the high school’s media room.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com