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School's out for summer as districts create contingency plans for fall

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Posted at 5:13 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 19:25:40-04

WILLOUGHBY HILLS — As teachers and students start logging off for summer break, the big question still looming for parents is: will they send their child back to school in the fall if they reopen?

We posted the question on our Facebook page and so far, 67% of parents say they will while 33% say they won't.

In the meantime, school districts are crafting contingency plans, and educators are using their experience from the last few months to move forward.

The transition from traditional teaching to instruction over the internet created challenges in the Willoughby-Eastlake school district.

“We learned a lot in the last few months, the skill set varied greatly. I don’t think there is any question there’s going to be some gaps created,” said Steve Thompson, Superintendent Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools.

Thompson said some teachers struggled with the switch.

“Those are the folks we really have to focus on next year if we are remote,” said Thompson.

A survey just sent out by the district this week asks families for their take on the last couple of months.

“There’s about a third of parents out there that think it’s wonderful, love it, kids love it, they’re thriving,” said Thompson.

Another third of moms and dads admit they struggled to motivate their child.

“They work, and they’re trying to balance all that,” said Thompson.

With no decision yet on what the future holds, Thompson is preparing to beef up training for the district’s 540 teachers if they don’t return to the classroom.

“So that they have more tools in their tool bag. We have to be higher skilled,” said Thompson.

If students and staff come back in August, temperature checks, hand washing stations and cleaning protocols for more than a million square feet of buildings will be costly.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of about $2 million,” said Thompson.

That on top of the $1.6 million already cut from their budget.

“We’ll see every bit that much and more in state cuts moving into next year,” said Thompson.

Willoughby-Eastlake schools just sent out 33 layoff notices as they try to weather the financial fallout from COVID-19.

“We’re forced to cut back on staffing. There’s going to be more people and more businesses that will default on their taxes,” said Thompson.

In the process, Thompson says that not only impacts the quality of education they can offer, poorer districts will be disproportionately hit.

“That’s the sad reality of COVID-19 as well. That gap between the rich and the poor and the have and the have-nots just continues to grow,” said Thompson.

While they face financial and educational challenges, Thompson is celebrating some successes.

“Emails and phone calls from parents were positive,” said Thompson.

He is especially thankful that his educators stepped up when they were needed most.

“We had one teacher who remotely tutored a student to help them prepare for the AP exam,” said Thompson.

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