Cuyahoga Falls schools' K-5 students returning to in-person classes five days per week

Students in online format will continue on that platform for remainder of semester; Students in grades 6-12 will stay in hybrid model for first semester

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Cuyahoga Falls City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols is pictured at a meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nichols announced on Wednesday that students in grades K-5 who signed up for in-person classes will return to full-time, in-person session beginning Nov. 16.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Based on survey responses from parents and the fact that COVID-19 cases in the city school district buildings have "remained fairly low," K-5 students who signed up for in-person classes will return to school five days a week starting Nov. 16, according to the superintendent.

K-5 students who enrolled in the in-person option have been attending classes in a hybrid format where they go to the building twice a week on different days based on where their last name falls in the alphabet. Online learning occurs on the other days.

Students in grades 6-12 will remain in the same hybrid format that they've already been doing for the rest of the first semester. Students who are taking online-only classes will continue in that set-up for the remainder of the first semester.

In an all-call to district families Wednesday night, superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols said a recent survey of parents found that 76% of respondents wanted K-5 students back in school full time, and 56% of respondents wanted students in grades 6-12 to attend school all day, in-person two days per week starting second semester.

"We simply can’t ignore these numbers," said Nichols. "And, we can’t ignore the fact that, while COVID-19 figures are increasing throughout Ohio and Summit County, Cuyahoga Falls Schools’ COVID numbers have remained fairly low – with no group quarantines to date. Other area school districts have experienced similar results. This has made us comfortable in moving away from Summit County’s color-coded system as a factor in our decision-making."

The Ohio Public Health Advisory System is a four-tier, color coded system that ranks counties according to several factors regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The colors are, from least severe to most, yellow, orange, red and purple. 

Nichols said the district can, with the guidance of Summit County Public Health, look at zip code data, and added that future decisions on resuming activities will be made "based upon our community and our experiences in the schools." He noted that factors such as substitute teachers' availability, as well as the number of cases among students and staff, and the amount of people quarantined will play a role in the decision-making process.

Families need to make decision for second semester by Nov. 11

On the all-call, Nichols said district families have until Nov. 11 to fill out a commitment form indicating whether their child will attend classes in-person five days a week or take courses through the online platform in the second semester, which starts Jan. 4. 

In October, three students (two at Lincoln Elementary School and one at DeWitt Elementary) and one employee in the district office tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district's dashboard. In November so far, one student and one staff member at the high school, and one student at Richardson Elementary School have tested positive for COVID-19.

The district started the year with all students in grades K-12 taking classes in an online format. In late September, students who enrolled in the in-person option returned to in-person classes two days per week.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.