Reopening Update: New CCBH Recommendations, 9/8 Start for Students, Survey Data, Reopening Committees, Athletics/Band Plans (7/31/20 7:15PM)

Dear Bulldog Families,

Keeping you informed with the latest school reopening information as it becomes available remains a top priority as we work through this very complicated and continually evolving situation. As you may have seen on the news last night, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) issued an announcement late yesterday recommending that area schools begin the upcoming academic year by operating remotely due to elevated health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The organization also advises that schools discontinue extracurricular activities as the school year starts remotely. 

I want our parents to know that I feel the weight, anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment from all of you as we go down this road. My daughter will be a senior so, along with all of you, I have a young lady that I need to respond to when questions are asked. Over the course of the past two weeks I’ve had conversations with parents and have responded to emails with many differing opinions as to how we should open. Recommendations from our families for opening are literally all over the board. As I talk to them I sense their anger for not coming back fully, their fear if we do and reservations about when we do.  I want everyone to know that I hear you.  

We will obviously be monitoring the situation closely and will be taking the recommendations of the CCBH under advisement when our reopening committees convene this coming week of August 3rd. Earlier today, I participated in a conference call with the CCBH and school superintendents across Cuyahoga County. The CCBH shared a number of pieces of information that were critical to shaping their recommendation including, but not limited to:

 

  • Cuyahoga County has 2nd highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state (2,100 cases in the county, representing 20% of all cases across the state)
  • Rate of positivity has jumped from 3.7% to 9%
  • Risk for youth ages 10-19 being able to spread virus as easily as adults is a major concern for CCBH
  • Lack of capacity of testing kids is a challenge for CCBH
  • 80% of cases are currently happening outside of long-term care facilities
  • Given the current rate of positivity, the advisory system level of red and community transmission in Cuyahoga County, spread within school buildings will be likely if students are allowed to return.

This afternoon CCBH held a public press briefing which is accessible online. For anyone interested in this afternoon’s full CCBH press briefing, it can be viewed via their Facebook page at facebook.com/ccbh.net, or via YouTube at https://youtu.be/-uxDyebtmt8. I would encourage anyone desiring additional context surrounding the new CCBH recommendations to watch their full presentation.

I certainly understand the position of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and appreciate their guidance. Our district cannot go against a recommendation from this group of health professionals. We have been asking for further guidance for some time and now we have it. 

With that being said, our revised district calendar has school starting for our students on Tuesday, September 8th. If we were starting school this coming Monday, based on the recommendation from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, we would indeed be remote. However, there are still more than five weeks between now and our start date of September 8th.  As a result, we continue to plan for our reopening and hope that our year may be able to start in person.

We truly understand the need for parents to be able to plan accordingly for the upcoming school year. We are working daily to finalize the details of our reopening plan. In addition to sharing the latest development regarding the CCBH recommendation, I also want to provide you today with an update on our district’s latest progress and next steps. 

Please take a few moments to review the latest updates regarding OFCS reopening plans below:

 

  • As a reminder, it is still our plan, along with most districts across the state, to align with Ohio’s COVID Public Health Advisory System (which monitors and assigns yellow, orange, red or purple alert levels by county) to help us with determining the manner in which our schools will safely operate (all in, hybrid,or distance learning) while the COVID-19 outbreak is still active. The CCBH announcement will have an impact on how we operate within each advisory level. We recognize that there is not a perfect system in place at this time and until a better system is established, we must rely on the health experts and their data to guide us. We will continue to keep you updated. 
  • ?We have finished compiling the data from the OFCS Reopening survey.  We received a total of 2,285 responses and want to thank all of our families who took the time to participate and share your thoughts on various issues surrounding the reopening of our schools. If you are interested in reviewing the data generated through the district’s reopening survey, please click HERE. Our Reopening Committees will be using this data as a reference tool during the reopening planning process.  As a reminder, this survey for school families was not a vote nor a selection of a method of instruction for any individual student. Rather, it was intended to help us gather your feedback and concerns to help inform the creation of our plans for multiple scenarios as it relates to the reopening of school.
  • Our reopening core committee and sub-committees will be holding a series of working meetings this coming week of August 3rd, during which time we expect to be able to get significantly closer to finalizing the details of our reopening plans. Even if we must start with distance learning, we will still need to have the hybrid and all-in plans in place so we will be at the ready for whatever method of education delivery is needed as conditions change. Committees consist of a cross-section of district administrators, teachers, staff and parents as well as representatives from the health and safety arenas. I want to thank the many parents, guardians and staff members who volunteered to assist on these committees. While we did not have space to accommodate everyone who offered to assist, we are so grateful to have so many willing to help. We look forward to reporting out on reopening committee work and sharing the Olmsted Falls School District’s full reopening plan.
  • In the meantime, we realize there will be many specific questions relating to athletics and co-curricular secondary activities (such as marching band) as those activities have currently planned practices and camps that are scheduled to occur in the coming weeks - before the official start of the school year. The just-released CCBH recommendations apply to when districts are in a remote learning model. Since we are not officially in a remote learning model yet, we will allow the continuance of these programs at this time. Both athletics and band will be following strict mitigation protocols and following Phase 1 guidance provided by the OHSAA. There are districts that will cancel all student extra-curricular activities. I do not believe this needs to occur at this time if we can put the proper mitigation techniques into place like we have over the course of the past few months. Our athletic code includes NO PHYSICAL CONTACT between students. Any additional information that needs to be shared with athletes and/or band members will come directly from the athletic department’s head coaches, or from the band director to their respective students and families.  We want to reiterate to parents and guardians that participation in athletic programs and band camp is completely VOLUNTARY at this time. We also want to emphasize that this situation continues to be very fluid and is subject to change at any time.
  • I want to reiterate to all parents that our OFCS administrators, teachers and support staff all want to have children return to our buildings and our classrooms full time.  As we work toward that, we all also want to ensure that we are creating the safest environment possible for everyone. Teaching all students five days per week is by far the most superior model for classroom teachers, however no matter what the method of instruction, our dedicated teachers and support staff stand ready to do what is best for the education, safety and well being of our students, staff and community. 
  • Please know that our district administrators and building principals are currently being inundated with phone calls and emails, and turn around response time may not be as quick as under normal circumstances. We sincerely understand the frustration and stress being experienced by our school community during this uncertain time.  We are doing our best to respond to calls and email inquiries, while also working on the detailed logistics involved with finalizing our reopening plan. Many of the questions being received across the district are similar. We are currently in the process of putting together a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions and this will be released alongside our full reopening plan.  If you do not receive a direct reply to your inquiry, please plan to reference the Frequently Asked Questions list when it is shared.  We are confident that most questions will be answered once the final reopening plan is released. Thank you for your ongoing patience.
  • We’d also respectfully ask that you do not rely on Facebook or social media for information on OFCS reopening plans. Official information from OFCS will be provided via the district’s official website (www.ofcs.net) and, as has been our practice, email alerts (like this one) will be sent directly to school families to let you know whenever new information is available and has been posted.  
  • As mentioned previously, the start date for students has been pushed back to Tuesday, September 8th. The Olmsted Falls Board of Education officially approved the revisions to the 2020-2021 OFCS School Year Calendar at their regular Board meeting held last week (on 7/22/20). To access the final approved version of the 2020-2021 OFCS School Year Calendar, please click HERE.

Finally, I realize that many districts throughout the state have already released their full reopening plans, and I have also watched in recent days as many districts have already been forced to pull back plans and revise. Olmsted Falls City School District has deliberately chosen a slow, steady and purposeful approach so that we are ultimately able to present our community a reopening plan that will be as solid and secure as is possible given the circumstances. We want the plan we present to be thorough, and to allow our families to make fully informed decisions and make concrete plans for their students as it relates to the upcoming school year. 

Thank you for your time and attention, and thank you again for your continuing patience and support. I look forward to sharing our district’s full reopening plans with you as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jim

 

Dr. Jim Lloyd

Superintendent for the Olmsted Falls City School District

26937 Bagley Rd.

Olmsted Township, OH 44138

Phone: 440-427-6000

Twitter: @OFCSSuper

Web: www.ofcs.net






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