Red county status gives Orange Schools green light to go with hybrid model  10/30/2020 18:14:31   Ed Wittenberg, special to

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio -- The third time was the charm for the Orange City Schools, which will begin in-person learning for the first time this academic year on Monday (Nov. 2).

After two unsuccessful attempts to implement its hybrid model, the school district was finally given the green light to move forward by Superintendent Lynn Campbell on Thursday afternoon (Oct. 29).

Shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine announced that Cuyahoga County remained at Level 3 (red) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System on Thursday (Oct. 29), Campbell posted a brief message on the Orange Schools' website confirming that the district would implement its hybrid model starting Monday (Nov. 2).

Several hours later, Campbell followed that up with a seven-minute video message -- live-streamed on both the districts website and its Facebook page -- with important reminders and other information for parents as they prepare their children for a return to school buildings.

The district has been in a fully remote model since the school year began Aug. 27.

Well be very excited to welcome our students to campus and to have them join the students at home who will also be engaging through the remote learning process, Campbell said in the message, which can be found on the districts website.

Parents who wish to have their children continue in the fully remote model have that option.

Campbell had informed district families in an email last Friday (Oct. 23) that if Cuyahoga County was not at Level 4 (purple) when the advisory system was updated on Thursday (Oct. 29), the district would move forward with the hybrid model starting Monday (Nov. 2).

Level 4 is the highest risk level on the coronavirus alert system, as it denotes severe exposure and spread.

On Oct. 22, DeWine had said Cuyahoga was one of three counties in Ohio on watch for possibly moving from Level 3 (red) to Level 4 (purple) this week.

To move to Level 4, counties must meet at least six of seven warning criteria tracked by the Ohio Department of Health for two consecutive weeks. Cuyahoga was in danger of going to purple because it met six of the criteria last week, but it dropped to four this week, DeWine said.

In his online message Thursday (Oct. 29), Campbell said that as long as the district is not at Level 4, it will continue with the hybrid model.

We know that now that we are in-person, based on that (advisory) system, we will be in for at least two weeks, he said.

That will give us two weeks to get rolling, and Im very hopeful and optimistic that we can do this and remain in-person and have many continuous weeks of in-person learning," he said.

COVID-related logistics

Campbell quickly added, however, that COVID-related logistics can play a role and impact the district in several ways.

If we have a high number of staff -- (such as) bus drivers or teachers who cannot come to school because of quarantine, etc. -- or if our student body attendance is impacted by quarantine and we have a large number of students out, these are things that could put us back into a remote learning environment, he said.

So, please, always be prepared to return to the remote model of instruction. I know its hard for parents to make those family arrangements, but please do so, so we can be fluid and nimble to adjust as needed.

Campbell added that its important to remember we can only continue in-person learning if we team up.

If we team up and do everything we can to prevent the spread among our students, among our staff and among our community, it will be so important to do that, he said. "Please avoid social gatherings and events where masking and social distancing are not enforced.

Throughout the school, we will have these procedures in place, and we will count on you to do your best. But outside of school, we need you to do the same. We need all of us to come together to be as safe as possible to keep our kids right here where they belong -- in school," Campbell said.

The district will move forward with winter sports cautiously, while observing safety protocols, Campbell said.

Our athletic director, Katie Hine, continues to work with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on getting a schedule in place that will allow our athletes to continue to move forward, but in a way thats cautious and careful, as we did with fall sports, he said.

Free meals will continue to be available to students who are attending school in-person, if they have registered with the food services department, Campbell said.

For students who remain in fully remote learning, free meals will also continue to be available for pickup between 11 a.m. and noon at the front entrance of Orange High School, he said. The current delivery schedule for meals at other sites will continue, as well.

The districts original plan in July was to open the academic year in the hybrid model -- with students attending school daily for half a day and learning remotely at home the rest of the day -- with fully remote learning offered as a second option.

But on July 31, Campbell said the district would shift to a fully remote model for the first semester, which ends Dec. 18. That decision was based on the Cuyahoga County Board of Healths recommendation July 30 for school districts in the county to open remotely due to the countys Level 3 status.

After Cuyahoga County had been at Level 2 (orange) on the advisory system for almost two months, the district was set to bring students back to school buildings on Oct. 19. But the countys moving to Level 3 on Oct. 15 spoiled those plans, as Campbell had said that the return was contingent on the countys remaining at Level 2.

At a work session of the Orange Board of Education Oct. 19, Campbell said he no longer views Level 3 as an automatic deterrent to in-person learning, for various reasons. He said he wanted to give students the option to return as soon as possible, and a majority of the school board agreed with him.

OTA agreement approved

Campbell said at that time to move forward with the districts hybrid learning option while the county is still at Level 3, a new memorandum of understanding -- including conditions for implementing the hybrid model under Level 3 status -- would need to be approved by the Orange Teachers Association.

That agreement was approved by the OTA this week, and the school board accepted it at a special meeting Friday (Oct. 30).

In his video message Thursday (Oct. 29), Campbell noted that the district would send additional information to parents later that evening for their review, such as the health and safety procedures that were distributed by the district earlier this year. He said more information would be coming from students' building principals, as well.

Campbell emphasized the importance of screening for symptoms of COVID-19 every morning before parents bring their children to school.

Its so important to self-screen for symptoms, he said. If you have symptoms or are ill, or the same with your children, please do not come to campus.

Campbell added that he was also excited for children who will continue to learn at home via the remote model.

We are here; we will be safe, he said. Thank you for all of your patience and support throughout these trying times.

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