Hudson's younger students will start going to class five days

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
David Spohn, a mathmatics teacher at the high school and president of the Hudson Teacher's Association, was one of several people to address the school board Monday regarding the proposal to switch from hybrid to in-person classes five days a week.

HUDSON – Students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will start going to school five days a week starting on Monday. However, students at the high school will continue to go to the building twice a week on a staggered schedule and taking their classes online for the rest of the week.

The Board of Education Oct. 12 unanimously approved having the district pre-kindergarten through fifth-graders go back to school five days a week, citing high parent comfort with the move plus the difficulties reported by parents that the younger students have with remote learning.

The school board voted 4-1 to have students at the middle school also return to the buildings five days, with board member Alisa Wright casting the dissenting vote. She said that while the feedback the board received from parents supported all-in education for the younger students, the older students, who were more independent, were doing better. Also, she said that while a majority of parents were still comfortable or very comfortable in sending their children to school five days, it was a smaller percentage than parents of younger students reported.

However, the school board rejected having the district’s high school students go five days, with board president David Zuro and vice president Steve DiMauro voting yes, and board members Wright, James Field and Tom Tobin voting no.  

The district still will maintain 6 feet of social distancing at lunch, in common areas, and, as much as possible, in the halls, in the buildings going to five days a week in-person, said Sheryl Sheatzley, the manager of communications and alumni outreach. The Hudson City Schools will be able to keep with one student per seat on the buses if the current number of bused students does not change; she added that “if ridership goes up significantly, we could have two students per seat.”

Social distancing in the classrooms will be 3 feet, Sheatzley said.

“Some of our buildings never moved the furniture out,” Sheatzley said. “They just used every other desk for hybrid. In some cases, the teachers may decide to move other furniture out to create more space in the classrooms. We will be ready for students to be all-in, kindergarten through eight, on Monday.”

Superintendent Phil Herman said that more spaces may be needed in areas where there will be eating to maintain 6 feet of social distancing as “the masks come off for them to eat.”

Herman said the data from the state, Summit County Public Health and the school’s own data supported a return to five days a week in the buildings.

“The Hudson City School district believes, when prudent, children need to be in school,” Herman said. “The relationships our students form with their teachers are a large part of a successful school experience for all ages. It is best to put this in place now so families can prepare for the transition. I’ve thought so much about our students’ experience. I believe we did the right thing in starting in hybrid. We had to maximize safety and proceed cautiously.”

Herman added that the schools “will be vigilant moving forward by closely monitoring the data factors above and providing up-to-date information to our Board of Education for future considerations regarding our learning instructional models.”

In addition, Phil Herman said the district will move away from solely relying on the Ohio Public Health Advisory's color-coded system to make decisions on how classes would be run, and instead weigh the state's information with other data, such as criteria recently released by the Centers for Disease Control. Before school started, the district was going to use the health advisory’s color system to determine the education model used, with all-in when Summit County was in Level 1 or 2, or yellow or orange, hybrid when the county was in red, or level 3, and all online when the county was at Level 4, or purple.

“Relying solely on the color coding is not responsible given what we know now,” Herman said. For example, Summit County went from orange to red to yellow, because there was one week “where there was a slight uptick in hospitalizations.” As of Oct. 8, Summit County is in orange, or Level 2.

“This is not a responsible way to proceed, especially since we have better measures,” Herman said.

As of Wednesday, 10 students and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the COVID-19 dashboard on the Hudson City School district website.

In addition, there are 22 individuals in quarantine, which includes those who have tested positive as well as those who were less than 6 feet away from someone who tested positive for more than 15 minutes. The most recent was a student who tested positive Oct. 12.

The district has about 4,600 students and about 700 total staff.

Herman said contract tracing indicates none of the positive cases have been through a spread of the virus within the schools.

Other districts

Of the 611 school districts in Ohio, as of Oct. 8, 366 districts have their students in the buildings five days a week, 186 districts are in hybrid, and 57 are fully online, Herman said.

“Those who were fully remote went from 79 to 57 statewide,” Herman said.

Locally, the Akron City School District is one of the few where all of its students take their classes online. The Cuyahoga Falls City Schools started the school year completely online but adopted a hybrid mode Sept. 28.

Students with the Woodridge Local, and Tallmadge, and Twinsburg City schools are five days a week for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, with the older students on a hybrid model. Nordonia Hills City Schools went to five days a week for all students starting Oct. 12 after starting the year in hybrid.

Aurora and Streetsboro started the year with classes in person five days for all of its students.

Herman said it is possible a class or even a school building may need to switch back to hybrid or remote: if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases or if staff absences outpace the number of substitutes the district has. Herman said the number of substitutes the district has “is very tight” this year.

David Spohn, a mathematics teacher at the high school and the president of the Hudson Education Association, had requested the board delay the start for all-in, at least for the middle and high school, to Oct. 27 to better coincide with the end of the first grading period for the older students, which is Oct. 23.

Spohn complimented the students for their following the new rules, such as social distancing and mask wearing.

“I commend the students for their high level of compliance to protocol,” Spohn said.

The elementary and intermediate schools are on trimesters, with the first grading period ending Nov. 24.

Yeji Kim, student government co-president, said the school administration should “look at what facial coverings are allowed.” She added that she has seen students wearing bandanas over their faces, which do little to impede the spread of COVID-19.

Students whose families opted for all-online education will remain taking courses online, Herman said.

“Some families, we understand, in-person would not work, so we offered an all-online option for them,” he said.

Students may transition into or out of the Virtual Learning Option at the end of the trimester, for kindergarten through fifth-grade, or semester for sixth grade and older, according to information from the district. Families of students taking all of their classes online will receive an email in the future describing the process to change learning options.  

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