Woodridge Local School District moves start date to Aug. 31

Superintendent says 31% of families signed up for online only classes

Woodridge Elementary School teacher Jodi Beskitt prepares for the new school year in her socially distanced classroom.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Students in the Woodridge Local School District now have another 12 days of summer vacation before they start classes in-person, online or in a mixture of both. 

The board of education on Tuesday voted to change the first day of school from Aug. 19 to Aug. 31, but did not make any other changes to the COVID-19 reopening plan that it approved in July.

Woodridge Local School District Superintendent Walter Davis said the start of the school year needed to be delayed “so that we can make sure that our teachers are properly trained and ready to go on Aug. 31.”

He noted 31% of district families registered for the virtual learning option and added the district will need to move “a number of teachers” into the virtual academy. Students in the in-person plan would be shuffled a little bit to ensure class sizes remain small, Davis said. In addition, Chromebooks will need to be redeployed and teachers will receive some more training.

The district’s reopening plan calls for students in grades K-5 to go to classes in the building five days a week and for students in grades 6-12 to attend classes in-person two days per week and take courses online for the remainder of the week. All students also had the choice of signing up for an online-only curriculum.

Summit County Public Health officials on Monday stated their “preferred option” is that schools start their years with online only instruction, but also released several recommendations if districts have in-person classes.

Davis told the board Tuesday he believed the district’s plan was “our best course of action moving forward.” He emphasized that the district was not “disregarding the health department’s advice,” but he felt the district’s plan was “well thought out and put together,” and would “keep our kids safe.”

Desks are being set up in classrooms to ensure 6-foot distancing among students, according to Davis. Signs are posted on classroom doors listing the maximum capacity for each room. The tables have been removed from the high school cafeteria and replaced with classroom desks that are spaced 6 feet apart.

Davis added the district will switch to online only classes if Summit County is put into the purple designation in the state’s color-coded warning system that shows the prevalence of COVID-19 in each county.

Board President Jeff McHugh noted state and county health officials supported the district’s reopening plan, and added he felt it was the “safest option we have.”

Board member Tammy Heffernan thanked her counterparts and Davis for their work and added it was a “hard decision.” She noted it was “disappointing” that many district residents “threatened to not vote for the levy if we did not vote a certain way [on school reopening].”

“I really hope that was just out of frustration because all we care about is the safety of our kids,” said Heffernan. “That is the bottom line. This has nothing to do with the levy or anything else.”

The district is asking voters to renew a 2.09-mill, 10-year operating levy on Nov. 3.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.

Woodridge Elementary School first grade teacher Elizabeth Marriner adds storage baskets under chairs to provide additional space for students' supplies.