Twinsburg school year will proceed as planned

Families can opt for in person at least part of the time, or online only instruction

April Helms
Kent Weeklies

TWINSBURG — Parents wishing to send their children back into the school buildings at the start of the school year will still have that option.

The school board unanimously agreed Aug. 11 to support their initial back-to-school plan, which includes in-person and fully remote choices.

The special meeting was scheduled due to Summit County Public Health recommending — but not mandating — that schools in the county start the school year remotely.

Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said in a conference announcing the new guidelines Aug. 10 that in the past 14 days, the county has seen 117 positive cases per 100,000 people.

“We have seen multiple outbreaks with coaching, attending practices, dance, cheerleading,” Skoda said. “We are also, unfortunately, facing a similar situation we had with adults, which is the limited availability of testing.”

Skoda said that the lowest risk of spread would be for schools to meet remotely.

“At Summit County Public Health, we understand the important need for students to be in the classroom,” she said. “However, these are unprecedented times.”

She added there is still a high level of community spread of COVID-19 in Summit County.

Skoda said that if students do gather, the health department will “strongly encourage” masking, and she said schools should follow “aggressive cleaning, and keep six feet social distancing as much as possible.”

Superintendent Kathryn Powers said that she felt the district’s hybrid model “has met the mark and exceeded it” in terms of what the county health board was asking.

“Obviously, it's going to take everybody doing what they need to do,” Powers said. “We cannot control anything but what is in the walls of our school district, but I know our families, our community members, are committed to doing what they can and what they should do, and what they will do to encourage our young students and our teenagers to make right choices so that we have a healthy school year.”

For the next school year, which starts with a soft reopening Aug. 31 through Sept. 3 and officially begins Sept. 8, the district plans to provide all students in preschool through sixth grade in-building learning five days a week; students in seventh through 12th grades would attend in-building classes every other day and take their classes online the alternating days.

To do this, the district has changed what grades will go to which school building:

? Preschool and kindergarten students will still go to Wilcox Primary School.

? First graders will go to Bissell Elementary School.

? Students in second through sixth grade will have their classes at the high school.

? Seventh through ninth-graders will go to Dodge Intermediate School.

? The district’s 10th through 12th graders will go to R.B. Chamberlin Middle School.

The district also will offer its Twinsburg City School District Virtual Academy for families who wish for their students to take their classes online.

Powers said that their school reopening plan was similar to the Tallmadge City School district’s, including the realignment of buildings.

Students riding the bus will be kept to one child per seat, and the bus windows would be cracked open, Powers said. Students will use the hand sanitizers when boarding the bus and when leaving the bus. With limited exceptions such as if busing is outlined in an IEP or if a student is taking classes at the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, high school students will not be bused.

Once students get to school, staff members will check their temperatures, Powers said.

“Each of our buildings will now have three clinics,” Powers said. “The regular run-of-the-mill clinic that will provide a place for a student who maybe needs to come down for an inhaler or need a band-aid. We will have a second clinic in each of our buildings for students who have symptoms aligned with the virus, and then we will have a third clinic and that will be a place where students will be quarantined until their family member can come to school to retrieve them.”

Students will eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms, Powers said. Class sizes will be smaller, with classes having 12 to 18 students instead of the typical 23 to 25 in other years.

Board President Mark Curtis said that the Summit County Public Health supported the district’s plan.

“They look at our plan as the gold standard,” Curtis said.

Board member Adrienne Gordon said that the board has heard “a lot from the community, that they want to be in school.” However, she added that “it’s really unfortunate that the board of health has put us in the position of making the call,” and that the board members were not health care professionals.

Laptops purchased

The school board also approved purchasing laptop computers from Staples Advantage in Philadelphia for $231,186.

Powers said that the district’s students, from preschool through 12th grade, will have a device for the school year. This purchase was needed because “we ran into a bit of a supply and demand issue with some Chromebooks that we had purchased,” and there is some uncertainty as to when this delivery will arrive.

Business manager Chad Welker said that the district will re-allocate about 300 laptops from the teachers and staff to the students for the time being. This order should arrive “in the next three to five business days.”

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