Falls returning to all-in classes April 6; staff has concerns

Students returning to five days a week April 6

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Cuyahoga Falls High School will have its prom on May 8 in the high school gymnasium and its commencement ceremony on May  25 at Canal Park. Both events will follow COVID-19 health protocols. This photo at the high school was taken in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Cuyahoga Falls students returning to in-person instruction five days a week on April 6, the teachers union leader said her members have concerns that they will discuss with the district administration.

Melody Carlisle, president of the Cuyahoga Falls Education Association, said she and her colleagues will meet with district leaders to discuss to discuss continuing best practices "to ensure the safety" of students and their family members.

Carlisle said she and her fellow teachers are "grateful" they received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last month and "are anxiously awaiting" receiving the second dose March 12.

"We know that our students will still be susceptible to the virus and to the possibility of taking it home to their unvaccinated family members," stated Carlisle. "The majority of our concerns are centered around the ability to social distance in some of the buildings and classrooms. We want to create the safest possible environment for our students and to avoid the need for students to miss school due to quarantine restrictions. We are hopeful we can find acceptable solutions together."

Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols told the board of education on Wednesday that the CFEA distributed a form inviting teachers to share concerns that they had about the return to all-in classes.

"Probably about a third of the comments have been no concerns, bring them back," said Nichols. "Those that do have concerns are centered upon social distancing, eating in the classroom, [and] air ventilation."

He said he would be meeting with CFEA representatives to discuss these issues at the beginning of the week ..

Nichols sent a message out to families on Feb. 26 stating students will be returning to in-person instruction five days a week on Tuesday, April 6.

Students will be on spring break March 29 through April 2, followed by a district comp day on Monday, April 5.

Presently, all grades have been on a hybrid schedule since Jan. 19. Students who selected the remote option have continued with online instruction.

Prior to April 6, there will be no live instruction on March 12 as the certified staff will receive their second round of vaccinations on that day. Nichols said he instructed staff to put assignments for the students to complete in Google Classroom. About 80% of the staff have received the first dose.

A statement made by Nichols in the Feb. 26 all-call to families regarding the effectiveness rate of the Pfizer vaccine after the first dose was incorrect. He told the Falls News-Press that he was contacted by Summit County Public Health officials about the error and acknowledged he was incorrect.

After accounting for the revised information, Nichols emphasized he was "not planning to make any changes" on the return to classes.

Pfizer's vaccine is 62% effective two weeks after the first dose and 95% effective two weeks after the second dose, according to Summit County Public Health officials.

In picking the April 6 date, Nichols cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that suggest face masking and physical distancing, as well as a full return to school and a relaxed physical distancing when in the bottom two of four levels of community spread.  

While Nichols noted Summit County is experiencing a decline in positive cases, he acknowledged it "is not in the two lower levels yet."

"At the same time, positivity rates in Cuyahoga Falls City Schools remain steady amongst students and staff." According to the district's COVID-19 Dashboard located on its website, www.cfalls.org, the total number of confirmed positive cases in February was 19 for students and 13 for staff. The majority of the student cases are at the high school, with 10 confirmed cases; Preston Elementary has the most confirmed staff cases at five. There are no new confirmed cases in March as of March 4.

Nichols said the district will consider transitions from remote to in-person and vice versa on an individual basis. All changes will be based upon available space in the desired section. Anyone wishing to make a change should contact the Student Services Department.