Hudson schools assess when older students can return to fully in-person classes

Upcoming weeks 'very important' in analyzing when grades 6-12 can be back in buildings full-time, superintendent says

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Hudson City School District Superintendent Phil Herman discusses the challenges his staff is facing as it works to determine when students in grades 6-12 can go back to in-person classes five days a week.

HUDSON — District Superintendent Phil Herman said he and his staff are working on determining the best time to have middle and high school students return to full-time, in-person classes.

During this week, students who are in kindergarten through fifth grade have switched from the hybrid model to full-time, in-person classes, while middle and high schoolers have transitioned from fully remote learning to the hybrid model. 

For the week of Jan. 4-8, students in grades 6-12 were in a fully remote learning model, while K-5 students were in the hybrid setup. Athletics resumed in the district on Jan. 4.

"This week and next week will continue to be very important weeks as we look at the effect of the holidays on the COVID cases," said Herman at the board of education meeting on Jan. 7. "We're watching that closely and while we have seen an uptick from the week before, it's not so significant as of yet as it was after Thanksgiving."

Herman said that he and his staff are focused on figuring out the best time to have the older students return to in-person classes five days a week.

"Having our students in school with professional educators has been a priority and it needs to remain a priority in the second half of this school year," said Herman. "We need to be monitoring those cases over the course of the next couple weeks and make a determination as to when the best time to make a transition to all-in will be."

Herman said the administration is reviewing local and state guidance, the number of COVID-19 cases in the county, in the 44236 zip code, and the district itself. Other pieces of data being analyzed are staff and student attendance rates, area hospitalization rates and bed availability, and COVID-19 rates in neighboring school districts.

The Centers for Disease Control has a risk level designation with each data point, said Herman during the board meeting.

"For almost each indicator, we moved from low or moderate risk in mid-October to the highest level of risk in December," stated Herman. "Right now, we still remain at a high level of risk according to the CDC, but we have seen some promising signs."

Herman reviewed some of the data:

• The number of Summit County COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in mid-October was 88.5. That figure jumped to 886 on Dec. 10 and 950 on Dec. 17, but declined to 574 as of Jan. 7;

• On Oct. 17, the number of COVID-19 cases in the 44236 zip code was 133 per 100,000; that figure was 1,132 on Dec. 19, but dropped to 862 as of Jan. 7; and

• On Oct. 15, the school district had two COVID-19 cases, but then had 28 and 32 cases, respectively, in the weeks of Dec. 3 and 10. On Jan. 7, the district had 21 cases.

"It's good news that cases in our region are on a trending downward path, however, the reason we came back to school in the learning models that we did is to be careful with the cases and the potential for a post-holiday surge, given our experiences after Thanksgiving," said Herman.

Herman added his staff is talking with Summit County Public Health and Ohio Department of Health officials to gain more clarity on the state's new guidance regarding when students and staff must quarantine.

"We will be modifying those procedures to be in alignment with [that guidance]," said Herman.

Three parents urge return to full-time, in-person classes

Three parents addressed the board of education and urged members to allow middle and high school students to return to full-time, in-person classes.

Parent Angelique Sweet said there are school districts "in our backyard that are going all-in, all five days, and have been since the beginning of school."

"The job of the school board is to keep my child safe in this school," added Sweet. "It is not to worry about the person that may be immunocompromised that lives at my house. That's for me to worry about."

Update on vaccinations

Herman said that Gov. Mike DeWine announced vaccinations for school personnel in Ohio would begin the week of Feb. 1, however the superintendent noted school employees are part of a vaccination group that numbers two million people and the state currently is receiving 100,000 vaccinations each week. 

"We hope that vaccine production and vaccine distribution to states is going to ramp up so that we're able to get [vaccinations] to our school personnel sooner," said Herman.  

He added Summit County Public Health officials believe it will take until the end of the school year to vaccinate school personnel unless rates of production and distribution increase.

"2021 is certainly beginning with as much challenge as 2020 ended, but I am so hopeful for what this year will bring for our students and their learning opportunities," stated Herman.

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