Twinsburg school officials plan for assessments, new year

April Helms
Akron Beacon Journal
Twinsburg Tigers

TWINSBURG -- Despite objections from school administrators, state assessment tests will proceed this spring.

"If you talk to any administrator in the schools, they will tell you they do not want the assessments," said Superintendent Kathryn Powers. However, she added, state officials will not apply for a waiver for the assessments.

Jennifer Farthing, director of curriculum, said that test administration opens March 22. This year, the district anticipates that the tests will be administered April 12 through 29, and that there's a 15-day window for all students. She added that this year will bring several changes.

"We will need to bring the virtual students on the campus," Farthing said. "We will need to assign separate testing for on-campus and virtual students. There are a lot of moving parts."

Tests cannot be administered remotely, Farthing said. She added that the district plans to get the testing schedule to families before spring break, which starts March 29. 

Powers said that it was "very unfortunate this is required at this time."

"It's a puzzle," she said. "We still have to maintain the social distancing piece. We will need to set it up where the virtual and on-campus students are separate."

Board member Rob Felber asked about what would happen if a student had to isolate or quarantine during that time. Farthing replied that they would be marked down as having a medical excuse, but no waivers would be given.

"We have a student who is going through chemo treatment, and we could not get that waiver," Farthing said.

Board president Tina Davis said that this is an "unfair assessment."

"The testing, it doesn't define the teachers, it doesn't define the students," she said.

Board vice president Mark Curtis said that administering the tests was "not time time that is well-spent."

"I feel very strongly it's absurd to expect students to come in and test, especially for those who have not stepped foot in a building for valid reasons," Curtis said. "It's absurd to administer assessments for information we already know, simply because they want to do it. I really wish we didn't have to do this. The time we spend with our students is crucial. Taking the time to gather information we already know further exacerbates the problem with have with lost learning, through no fault of their own."

Graduation and prom

Powers said that the district is "committed to ensuring the class of 2021 and their families have the opportunities to create great memories through commencement and prom." Currently the district administration is looking at several venues for the commencement ceremonies since the Ohio Department of Public Health released its newest guidelines involving gatherings at places such as entertainment venues and stadiums. 

According to information from Gov. Mike DeWine's office:

  • The maximum number of spectators in any indoor sports venue shall be 25% of fixed, seated capacity.
  • The maximum number of spectators permitted in any outdoor sports venue shall be 30% of fixed, seated capacity.
  • The maximum number of patrons permitted in any indoor entertainment venue shall be 25% of fixed, seated capacity.
  • The maximum number of patrons gathered in any outdoor entertainment venue shall be 30% fixed, seated capacity.

With these guidelines, capacity at Tiger Stadium would be 800, and Blossom Music Center would be at 1,350. E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron, where the district has traditionally had its commencement ceremonies, is capped at 450.

"The class of 2021 is over 300 itself," Powers said. 

Another challenge is that if an indoor venue is used, there must be a higher grade of air filtration, MERV 13.

"This was a surprise," Powers said. "We are working to address this."

Chad Welker, the district's business manager, said that his department is "working through that process." He added that the filters "are in short supply."

Last year, schools nationwide, including Twinsburg High School, were forced to cancel their proms and retool their graduation plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prom is tentatively scheduled for May 7 at Signature of Solon, and graduation for May 24, at a venue to be determined.

The next school year

Powers said she was "developing a parent survey and a companion staff survey that will be forwarded at the end of next week through Blackboard Connect.

"It will be our intention to collect the feedback offered through the surveys prior to spring break so that we can move forward in developing a plan for the 2021-22 school year," Powers said.

"I would like to dispel any rumors that our school district has made decisions about next year," Powers said. "Since the pandemic began, we have worked hard to collect feedback from parents and staff members prior to making any decisions about the operation of the school district. We strive to be transparent in our efforts. Every family has their own special set of circumstances and it will be our intention to collect feedback from our parents so that we can develop a plan that is as responsive as possible. Our plan must follow expected health and safety protocols and keep the health and safety of our students and staff members as our priority. This work is complicated given the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic."

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