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A move to 'purple' on state's Public Health Advisory System would mean decisions for schools

Schools have different plans as infection rise
Posted at 7:17 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 07:07:51-04

INDEPENDENCE, OH — As Cuyahoga County faces the possibility of moving to purple Level 4 - the highest on the state's Public Health Advisory System, some administrators said Monday it would mean different things to different schools.

At St. Paul in Westlake, principal Jeremy Louden said any change in the alert level wouldn't trigger a change in the school's operation. The private school has had in-person learning for all 190 students since late August.

Louden said no students have tested positive for coronavirus.

"There's nothing I think that can substitute for a teacher in a classroom with the students," said Louden.

He said St. Paul's return-to-school plan completed last summer is not dependent upon the state's alert system.

Instead, students would move to remote learning if 10% of students tested positive for COVID-19, if a large number of staff members were quarantined, or if the government forced schools to close.

Governor Mike DeWine said a county's move to purple, meaning residents have a high risk of exposure to the virus, would not trigger mandates from the state.

But a move to purple would mean changes at Independence Local Schools.

"Purple does mean our district transitions to remote learning," said Superintendent Ben Hegedish.

The public school district went against county health department recommendations that districts begin the year with on-line classes, and instead opted for in-person learning.

Hegedish admits losing sleep over the decision but doesn't regret it.

"Our kids have been back, they've been engaged in learning, our activities, our athletics, our classrooms have been great," said Hegedish.

The district has had one student and two employees test positive for COVID-19.

The most-recent cases involving employees meant all third graders are currently taking classes remotely.

Now, as the district prepares for the possibility that other grades will have to follow, Hegedish said he hopes it's only temporary and that infection rates in the community fall quickly.

"As soon as these numbers are favorable, I'll be looking to bring our kids back," he said.