Nordonia students will have in school, online options

In-class lessons could be five days or two, depending on the COVID-19 alert level in Summit County

APRIL HELMS Reporter
The Nordonia Hills City Schools plan for teaching students this year will depend on the county's coronavirus threat level.

NORTHFIELD CENTER – Students attending the Nordonia Hills schools will be in the buildings five days a week when possible, while going to a hybrid model of in-person and online education, or even all online, should Summit County be considered at a more elevated risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to the Nordonia Hills City School district’s reopening plan.

The plan, which was unanimously approved by the school board July 23, also will include an all-online option for families to prefer to keep their children at home.

Superintendent Joe Clark said he would have a virtual town hall to address resident questions on July 30, at 7 p.m. via Facebook Live. A form for residents to submit questions can be found at nordoniaschools.org, as well as a copy of the plan.

During the July 23 meeting, Clark called the discussions around this year’s reopening plan “the toughest we have faced in my memory.”

“The plan was developed through long and arduous discussions involving administrators, teachers, parents, and public health officials,” Clark said. “We understand not every part of the plan will appeal to every family. We are grateful for your support of us as professionals who care about the safety of our children and staff, and we respect any differing opinions you may have.”

Clark said the plan was “a long time coming” in a Facebook Live presentation on July 21, which more than 300 people watched.

“We want as many students in the schools as possible, but we understand there is a pandemic going on and some families may not be comfortable sending their kids back into the schools,” Clark said. “But even when in school, schools could be shut down again. If that happens, all classes will be online. Also, we want to keep employees healthy, and families of employees healthy and the families of students healthy.

Chad Lahrmer, the school board vice president, commended those who worked on the plan.

“I know there are a lot of parents who are really unhappy right now,” Lahrmer said. “On the one hand I am sorry for that, but we are doing what is right for the protection of our children, and this is what I think is the safest thing for our students.”

Implementation of the plan will depend on the rating Summit County gets from the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. The governor’s office created a color-coded system for the state’s 88 counties that indicate the amount of risk of exposure to COVID-19. The colors, from least to most severe, are yellow, orange, red and purple.

The school district’s mode of learning will not change overnight, Clark said. “Unless we are ordered otherwise,” school officials “hope to give at least a week’s notice” before transitioning from one mode of learning to another.

The school board decided that in the first four weeks of school, if Summit County is in Code Orange or Red, students will return to school two days per week. In Code Yellow, students will return five days per week. In Code Purple, the most severe level, students will participate in remote instruction at home five days per week.

The school board will review how the schools are doing at the end of September and make any needed adjustments, said Board President Tammy Strong. 

Lahrmer was critical of the lack of guidelines from the state.

“I’m frustrated because these decisions should have been made at the state level, which has more resources,” Lahrmer said. “We are not qualified tp make these decisions. I know we usually complain about decisions made at state and usually we prefer to make decisions locally. But this is one instance where the state should have been making these decisions — but they kicked the can to us. I’m really frustrated. I won’t be able to live with myself if it runs through our schools and someone dies or becomes permanently ill.”

The school year

Masks will be recommended for children in kindergarten through second grade if the county is at the Yellow level. Masks will be required for the hallways, in small groups and other situations where social distancing can’t be maintained, but recommended for in the classroom, where students would be social distanced.

At Orange, masks will be required on in small groups and hallways for all students. In the classrooms, masks will be required for students in third grade and older, and recommended for students in kindergarten through second grade. At the Red level, all students would be required to wear masks.

There will be limited exceptions such as medical reasons or eating lunch for wearing a mask, Clark said.

Families will also be asked to supply their children with masks.

“We are on lots and lots of waiting lists for PPE equipment, including masks,” Clark said. “We don’t have the resources to provide masks for every student. If they forget one day, fine, we can take care of them.”

If Summit County is at red level, all students will attend in-person classes twice a week, with remote instruction the remaining three days. Students will be divided into two groups, with students in one group generally going Mondays and Wednesdays, and the second group going Tuesdays and Thursdays. This could change in the event of a holiday or during election week.

Masks also will be required on the school buses, where students will sit two per seat, Clark said.

Lockers will not be used in the coming school year, Clark said. He added that students at the high school did not use the lockers, but parents for children in kindergarten through sixth grade will need to make sure their children’s backpacks are large enough for their school supplies. There will be places for students to store their backpacks.

Clark said the district is looking to purchase nearly 100 additional desks.

“Right now a lot of classrooms have tables, hard to social distance, and they take up a lot of space,” he said. “The tables will be placed in storage, hopefully for use in the future. We are also spending a fortune on plexiglass dividers.”

Clark said wellness checks and good hygiene are crucial at this time.

“We need you to check your child’s wellness,” Clark said. “If they have a fever of 100 they shouldn’t go to school. That shouldn’t have been happening anyway, even before this. Don’t bring down the Advil or Tylenol. Also, make sure someone can pick up child if they get sick.”

The district’s staff and teachers also need to follow this advice: if they feel ill, they need to stay home.

Summit County Health is putting together guidelines for what to do if a student, teacher or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, Clark said.

“We don’t have that yet,” he said. “We will release that as soon as we get it.” Clark added that he hoped to get this information within the next week.

The first day of school for students is Sept. 8.

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