August 5, 2020
Dear North Royalton Community,
I hope this communication finds you well.
I want our families and community to know that I understand the anxiety, uneasiness and uncertainty from everyone as we continue to go down this path of making the decision on how to reopen our schools the safest way possible for our students and staff. As the father of three NRHS graduates who were all actively involved in activities and athletics, the decisions that I and all Superintendents in our county, state and country have to make are heartbreaking.
On Thursday, July 30, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) released a recommendation that schools in the county start the year virtually. On Friday, July 31, we were involved with a conference call with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. They shared with us that this was not a recommendation that was taken lightly and several critical factors were considered. The critical factors they presented for starting the school year remotely include:
- Average Number of Daily Cases: This number more than tripled between mid-June and mid-July.
- Community Capacity to Test Children: This is currently very limited.
- Hospital Activity: They continue to experience increasing levels of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, including intensive care admissions, related to COVID-19.
- Non-Congregate Settings: A high percentage of recent cases have occurred in non-congregate settings.
- Number of Cases: Local activity has been identified as being in the "high incidence" category by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Ohio Public Health Advisory System: We are currently rated as Level 3/Red. Only Level 4/Purple is higher in terms of risk for transmission of COVID-19.
- Positivity Rates as Shown by Testing: These have been climbing over the last month.
- School-Related Settings: CCBH has investigated multiple reports of clusters of cases in sports and other "return to play" activities.
Our administrative team has met and considered all the factors involved in reopening. I have determined that based on the recommendation from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, North Royalton City Schools will alter our reopening plans and WILL ONLY OFFER Remote Online Learning for students when Cuyahoga County is in the Red or Purple levels based on the information from the State of Ohio. This means for the start of the 2020-21 school year, all students will be in remote learning for the first quarter (nine-weeks) unless conditions in the county warrant a reexamination of our status. Accordingly, after these first nine weeks, if pandemic conditions change, we will move to our phase plans for in-person and remote learning options for the remainder of the year as long as we can do so in a safe manner for students and staff. There is nothing our teachers and staff want more than to be face to face with our students in our buildings.
Even though the majority of the details in our reopening document will remain the same, there are changes that will be made. While that amended document will come out by early next week, I would like to share two major changes.
First, there will be no need for our parents to choose a learning model option as we asked you to do a few weeks ago. During remote learning this first quarter, all students will be assigned to a classroom with a North Royalton City Schools teacher. All students will follow a daily schedule of their assigned classes. Instruction during this time will consist of live lessons and recorded video lessons with teachers through Zoom or Google Meet, with additional instructional support through Google Classroom. Some lessons may be for whole-class instruction, while others are for small groups of students to differentiate instruction. More information and schedules will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. If and when we return to blended learning or all in, face to face instruction, families who opt to remain with home remote learning for their student(s) on a daily basis will be afforded the opportunity to do so. This at-home learning option will be taught by our North Royalton City Schools teachers. A description of what that will look like at each level will be sent out to parents with an opportunity at that time to opt into it or return to in-person learning. There will no longer be a separate option for courses taken through the Ohio Online Learning Program.
Secondly, as was stated previously, students’ first day of school was to be Monday, August 24, 2020. Because of the changes to our plans, the necessity of our counselors and principals to create new schedules, and the need to get technology into the hands of all of our students, we will be pushing back the start of remote learning to Tuesday, September 1, 2020. Our staff will still report on August 17 and utilize the days between August 17 and September 1 to participate in professional development activities, teacher-based team meetings, and prepare for both live and recorded lessons for our students. We will be sending a separate communication to kindergarten parents to discuss kindergarten screening and their first day of remote instruction.
I also want to address athletics and extracurricular activities. It is with a heavy heart that I need to inform you that the Cuyahoga County Board of Health has recommended extracurricular activities, including athletics, be cancelled in the interest of health and safety. Therefore, all North Royalton extracurricular activities and athletics are cancelled effective immediately, unless the extracurricular or activity can be held virtually. This will remain the case for as long as we are in a full remote learning phase.
We will continue to be in discussions with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to determine when schools can resume in-person learning. The COVID-19 pandemic changes rapidly. The health and safety of our students, teachers, staff and community remain our first priority. I will update you with that information in future communications.
I know that any decision we make will not be agreeable with everyone. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health are the health experts. We have worked with them throughout this pandemic and will continue to adhere to their guidance as we move forward. I have heard and read the spectrum of science, opinions and beliefs that everyone has shared with me regarding this pandemic as well as what should and what should not be done regarding schools. I fully understand and share your frustrations. The reality of this situation is that I cannot with a clear conscience, regardless of the spectrum of opinions shared with me, bring over 4,500 students and staff back to school when the Cuyahoga County Board of Health says it is unsafe to do so.
Regardless of our opinions, I thank you for your understanding and support of our students, staff and programs and hope that we can work together to give our students not only the best education possible but the emotional support, care and love they need.