Twinsburg students will go remote for two weeks after winter break

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
When Twinsburg district students return from winter break Jan. 5, their first two weeks of classes will be taught remotely.

TWINSBURG – When Twinsburg district students return from winter break Jan. 5, their first two weeks of classes will be taught remotely. In addition, the district will pause athletic and extracurricular activities until Dec. 7, then evaluate where the area is in terms of cases of COVID-19.

The Twinsburg Board of Education unanimously approved holding off on athletic and extracurricular activities at the Nov. 18 board meeting. The school board voted 4-1 on having students take their classes remotely for two weeks after winter break, returning to the buildings Jan. 19, the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Board member Adrienne Gordon cast the dissenting vote.

Winter break is from Dec. 21 through Jan. 4.  

Gordon said she felt that remote learning should start after the Thanksgiving break, “for the high school at least.” According to information from the district, of the 68 students reported to test positive for COVID-19  to date, only three cases were from students in eighth grade or younger.

“Right now the cases are high,” she said. “A few weeks from now, they could be extraordinary.” Gorden added that “a lot of kids are going to be coming home from college at Thanksgiving.”

As of Friday, there were 71 students and 10 staff members in the Twinsburg City Schools who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent Kathryn Powers said the halt to athletic activities and extracurriculars “has the self-quarantine tied to the Thanksgiving Day holiday.”

“This will give us plenty of time so the kids are not participating in congregate activities,” Powers said. She added that having students and staff in classes remotely for two weeks will provide a quarantine time after the holidays.

“What happened at Halloween really troubled me. What we saw a couple weeks after Halloween, we saw that pop in numbers in the high school. Part of this thinking is wanting to make sure we are not overzealous. We are aware especially that parents of elementary students depend on us. Teens need social-emotional and working in team. But when we have holiday breaks, the students may not be not following the protocols that they do on campus. This is a layer of protection for our students and our staff members, too.”

Powers said that the Summit County Public Health signs off on the district’s plans for athletics and activities.

“Each of our plans for each of the sports and all of our activities receive a review by health officials at Summit County,” Powers said during the meeting. “As of today, they put a pause on approving many of our winter sports programs. In fact, the only ones that were approved prior to today were the students who are swimming on our swim team and practice and tryouts for basketball. All of the plans have been submitted, with the exception of bowling, as we were awaiting further guidance from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.”

While he voted for both measures, board member Rob Felber said he was “conflicted on a lot of things.”

“We are not epidemiologists,” Felber said. “We have a governor who has tried to appeal to the higher self. That hasn’t worked, in the state and nationally. I’m not sure quarantine periods will do the trick either. Are we just shifting the responsibility from the schools to the community? I don’t think the data is going to change. People aren’t listening. In two hours, I had 30 emails at the beginning of school year. Now, nothing. What we really need to discuss tonight, if we are making this decision, are we making it for the right reason? I like the idea of pauses, but will they do what we hope?"

Board president Mark Curtis said that the proposals “represents a compromise to try to address behavior.”

“At the end of the day, we don’t have any control of what people choose or not to choose,” Curtis said. “I think what is being recommended here, most people can live with it. Child care concerns are very real. But we tried to make clear to families that we could pivot at any time, that things are fluid. There will be hardships but given everything, doing nothing is not an option. The goal is to try to help mitigate these things.”

Survey

According to the survey, which was presented at the meeting, 1,783 parents and 455 staff members responded to the second quarter questionnaire.

In the survey, nearly 74% of families with students taking class on campus wanted the district “staying the course,” with a little more than 9% wanting the district to go to 100 percent remote through winter break, and 17 percent wanting the district to go to remote learning through Jan. 18. Support for “stay the course” was stronger for families of younger children, with nearly 88 percent of Wilcox parents wanting to keep things the way they were, versus a little more than 65 percent for middle school students and 63 percent of high school students. A little more than 80% of the elementary school parents supported keeping things they way they are, ad nearly 80 percent of intermediate school parents felt the district should “stay the course.”

Results with the district’s certified staff were more mixed. Overall, 41.4% stated the district should “stay the course,” while just under 15% answered that the Twinsburg schools should pivot to remote learning through winter break. Forty-four percent said the district should go to remote learning through Jan. 18.

County and state

On Thursday, Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda issued a Stay At Home Health Advisory in response to a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The advisory urges all residents to stay at home to the greatest extent possible due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county. Residents should only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food, or receiving deliveries.

Residents are strongly advised to avoid traveling in and out of the state, forgo having guests in their homes during the upcoming holiday season and utilize online communications wherever possible. The advisory encourages employers to move as many employees as possible to working from home. Businesses and local governments are advised to move as many transactions and functions as possible to online, and schools are directed to monitor cases within their district and community.

This advisory will remain in place through Dec. 16, unless an additional advisory is issued.

Also on Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine stated that Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud signed a health order encouraging people to stay at home during specified hours unless they are working or engaged in an essential activity.

Under this order, people should stay at a place of residence between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for obtaining necessary food, medical care, or social services or providing care for others. The order will be in place for 21 days.

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