Cuyahoga Falls, Woodridge take different approaches to new school year

Instruction starts Aug. 31

PHIL KEREN
Reporter
The Cuyahoga Falls City School District will have all students take classes online through Sept. 25. After that, district leaders will decide whether students can return to in-person classes. Pictured from left at a board of education meeting that happened prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are Superintendent Todd Nichols, Treasurer Kristy Stoicoiu, Board President Karen Schofield, Board Vice President Anthony Gomez, and Board members Patrice White, Kathy Moffet and David Martin.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Students in both school districts in the city will start the new school year on Aug. 31, albeit with different approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While students in Cuyahoga Falls City Schools will begin the first few weeks online, younger students in Woodridge Local Schools will be in class full-time, while those in sixth grade and up will attend two days per week, with the remainder of days spent remote-learning.

And while Cuyahoga Falls is delaying the start of moderate- to high-contact sports until Oct. 1, the Woodridge Board of Education last week voted to allow football and soccer to begin competition with other districts that also have agreed to allow competition.

Falls Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols announced last week that the district’s school reopening task force decided to start the year with all students taking online classes, following Summit County Public Health’s announcement that the “preferred option” is that schools start their year with online-only instruction. As it stands now, city school district students will take classes in the online platform through Sept. 25. 

The exception is Six District Educational Compact classes that occur in Cuyahoga Falls High School — those will be conducted in person five days a week. Six District programs also begin on Aug. 31.

The city school district also postponed all moderate to high contact sports until Oct. 1. That decision follows a Summit County Public Health recommendation made in late July.

If pandemic conditions improve in September, the district said it will prepare for a “soft start” with face-to-face instruction beginning the week of Sept. 28, Nichols said.

Nichols told the school board Wednesday that the county will continue to offer data and make recommendations on the issue of reopening schools.

Board member Anthony Gomez thanked Nichols for making the “incredibly difficult decision” to delay the return to school buildings.

“I hope at the end of this process, on Sept. 25, we were wrong and nothing happened and we can send our kids back,” said Gomez.

Meanwhile, Woodridge Local School 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. Woodridge Local School District Superintendent Walter Davis said about 31% of district families registered for the virtual learning option.

Davis said the district was not “disregarding the health department’s advice,” explaining he feels the district’s plan was “well thought out and put together,” and would “keep our kids safe.”

Likewise, Woodridge school officials feel the sports season can also start.

While some of Woodridge’s non-contact sports teams such as golf and tennis have already started competition against other schools, the Woodridge Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously backed a motion to move forward with its contact sports — football and soccer — this fall.

The vote came after Gov. Mike DeWine announced earlier in the day that high school contact sports in the state can move ahead with scrimmages and games.

Davis noted that DeWine’s announcement conflicted with Summit County Public Health’s recommendation and asked the board for guidance, stating his plan was to follow the governor’s go-ahead.

Board members noted that students have practiced with their teams for more than a month and added they felt the athletes’ participation showed that parents trusted how coaches were handling the challenging situation.

Davis acknowledged there have been “a couple hiccups here and there, but we’ve made corrections … we’re monitoring, we’re spot checking.”

He added he, athletic director Nick Mayer and district treasurer Tom Morehouse have checked in on team practices.

Board member Dave Lydic said coaches have been “very diligent” about enforcing sanitizing and distancing protocols during practices.

“The kids just really need this,” added board member Tammy Heffernan.

Davis added it was important for district leaders to review the state’s guidance on contact sports, including how they would handle spectator attendance.

With attendance expected to be limited at competitions, Davis said the district will be livestreaming its games on YouTube.

“It’s an awesome benefit,” said board President Jeff McHugh about being able to see videos of the contests.

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

Woodridge Local School District Superintendent Walter Davis speaks during a special board of education meeting earlier in August. The board on Tuesday voted in favor of moving forward with contact sports this fall.