CLEVELAND — As Ohio continues to report record-breaking coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state, local school districts are implementing new plans for the second half of the 2021-22 school year in an effort to keep students staff and staff safe—and some district leaders have decided it is time to go remote again.
That is what Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon announced for students in his district on Wednesday. Right now, the district will be remote learning for the first week of learning in 2022.
"That's going to ruffle some feathers," said Eric Butler.
Decisions like that kept some parents on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what happens in their child's schools. It is a delicate balance between having enough information and giving families time to regroup.
"It is extremely important for districts that they are continually communicating with parents," Butler said, a parent and administrator in Parma City Schools. "I think that is our main number one thing. The more communication with parents the more camaraderie and support you get from parents and guardians ... I think districts will find they will have more success."
Some districts, like Parma, are starting the new semester with in-person learning.
"We don't just need to keep kids safe from bullies and fires and intruders. We need to keep them safe from this pandemic," said Kynslee Pearrell. She has kids in both public and private schools.
Her kids will be wearing masks when they are in their classrooms. Pearrell is an educator and after spending nearly a decade out of the classroom, she started as a substitute a few months ago.
"If you're a parent, if you're a superintendent, if you're a school board member, you're a teacher. We all share the same goals. We all want our kids in school," DeWine said in a Wednesday press conference. His statement came in response to a letter from the Ohio Children's Hospital Association which encouraged district to make masks mandatory.
"I'm a huge advocate of kids being in school still by following scientific, medical experts," Pearrell said. Her family is vaccinated but she is worried about what could happen when her kids go back in the classroom, so she is already making plans.
"Quite honestly, I'll likely keep our son home until the 5th just to have those extra days just in case," she said.
Her son is scheduled to start school on Jan. 3.
"In everything you do, you always do what's best for kids," Butler said when asked about the balance districts must strike when looking at options.
"You're talking about having to flip your classroom, right," he said about the quick-change teachers must make when districts decide to change things last minute. "So going from in person to remote. That's a very hard thing to do."
Both Butler and Pearrell said communication from the district is the most important thing because the changeover for families takes time.
"I would be the person that would then not go to work so that would affect my office job. I couldn't sub for the school that relies on me," Pearrell said. "And I really like doing that."
Since tracking started in March 2020, Ohio recorded nearly 2 million COVID-19 cases.
Below is a running list of district plans and mandates for the return to school next week that we will be updating as they are announced.
Remote learning from Tuesday Jan. 4 through Friday Jan. 7.
Avon Lake City Schools
Students will return to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 4. Monday Jan. 3 is an professional development day for staff.
Masks will be required for all staff and students in the district during the day or during after-school activities.
"Face masks may be removed during lunch time while eating or drinking, or while actively competing in an athletic event or practice. Face masks will also be required for anyone attending any after school event, performance or competition. This requirement will be in effect through Friday, January 28, 2022 at which time the face mask requirement will be re-evaluated. Current approved face mask exemptions will be honored," the district said.
The district is delaying the return to school until Thursday, Jan. 6, including athletics and students who attend alternative, vocational, and/or consortium programs outside the Beachwood Schools, according to a message from the superintendent.
The district offered a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for students and staff from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3 at the Board of Education building.
The testing requirement has been extended for all extra-curricular participation for all middle and high school students for the first few weeks of January.
The district also has several backup plans for busing, lunches at some schools and for event spectators.
Bedford City School District
The district announced Sunday that due to the high number of COVID-19 cases, students in all BCSD schools will return to remote learning for the week of Jan. 3.
Brooklyn City School District
Superintendent Dr. Theodore Caleris announced when the district returns from winter break on Tuesday, Jan. 4, all students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors.
“We have made this decision out of an abundance of caution in an effort to add an additional layer of protection for students and staff, and to reduce any close contact situations in the classroom,” Caleris said.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District
CMSD was one of the first districts to announce it will switch to remote learning for the first full week of 2022.
CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said Wednesday he made the decision due to the "dramatic increase of positive COVID cases in the city of Cleveland."
School buildings will be open Monday for families to pick up lunches for their children as well as for students to pick up their laptops or tablets if needed.
Elyria City Schools
Classes will resume as scheduled on Monday, Jan. 3, but a mask mandate will be in place for all staff, visitors and students at all grade levels, preschool through 12th, according to an update on the district's Facebook page. Masks will be required in early January and the policy will be reassessed throughout the month. Masks will also be required during after-school events, including sports.
Garfield Heights City Schools
Garfield Heights City Schools announced students will return to in-person learning on Jan. 4, with students and staff remaining masked at all times, until at least April 1 to minimize the risk and reduce exposure to the coronavirus.
“The GHCS is fully aware of the circumstances around us, and will continue closely monitoring data on a daily basis and communicate any changes in protocols as quickly as possible,” the district said on Facebook Wednesday.
Maple Heights City Schools
Superintendent Dr. Charlie Keenan announced Tuesday that their district would be providing remote learning for the first three days of school after their winter break, from Wednesday, Jan. 5 to Friday, Jan, 7. The model that will be implemented at each building will be the same that was in place the two days prior to winter break, Keenan said.
Mayfield City Schools
The district has a mask mandate in place for all students Pre-K through 12, staff and teachers through at least Jan. 17, 2022.
The district’s COVID-19 reporting hotline is 440-995-6886 or email email@example.com.
North Olmsted City Schools
Superintendent David Brand announced that it would not be changing plans for it's return from winter break, with in-person learning still the plan.
All students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks..
North Ridgeville City Schools
North Ridgeville City Schools Superintendent Roxann Ramsey-Caserio said that beginning Jan. 3, all students Pre-K through 12 and staff will be required to wear face masks while in district building and on all school-provided transportation.
"The decision to require facial coverings allows us another measure to keep staff and students in the District for in-person learning. This guideline is in place until January 28, 2022. The district will communicate any adjustments as needed," the district said.
Parma City School District
Superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek announced that beginning Monday, Jan. 3, all students and stff members will be required to wear masks in all school and school-related activities and facilities.
The district updated quarantine guidelines to match the CDC's guidelines, with five days being the key window to return from isolation.
"Finally, please trust that none of us want to return to remote instruction. Closely following these protocols will help us to avoid this draconian step," Smialek said in the announcement.
Ravenna School District
The district said it will go remote for students starting on Jan. 10 through Jan. 21.
"Please note that January 14 is a PD day (students are off), and there is no school on January 17, so students will be remote for a total of 8 days. Some special education classes will continue to meet in person, although on a modified schedule," the district said.
Riverside Local Schools
The district is extending Winter Break for all students through Wednesday, Jan. 5 in an attempt to keep infected students and staff home to start the new year.
Classes will resume Thursday, Jan. 6 with Jan. 3, 4 and 5 being calamity days.
The district is asking families in the district to report COVID-19 cases to District Nurse Heidi Perry at 440-358-8304.
Shaker Heights Schools
Superintendent Dr. David Glasner announced that the district is planning to return to in-person learning for all students on Tuesday, Jan. 4.
With the surge in COVID-19 cases in Northeast Ohio, the district will require all staff, students and visitors to wear masks indoors while implementing social distancing whenever possible and providing regular hand washing and sanitation opportunities for students.
South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools
Superintendent Dr. Linda Reid announced that the district will pivot to remote teaching and learning for the first week back from their winter break, from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, with an expected return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, Jan. 18. That date may be extended if there continues to be a high amount of positive COVID-19 cases over the next several weeks.
Hospitals issue plea to districts
On Wednesday the Ohio Hospital Association sent a letter to Ohio school officials asking them to implement a mask policy - if they don't have one at this time. The letter was signed by the presidents and CEOs of major hospitals in Northeast Ohio, including UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Akron Children’s Hospital and the Chief of Medical Operations for the Cleveland Clinic.
"We want learning environments to continue, but at the same time, we do want them to be safe. And that's why it's such a critical time right now because there are so many other health care needs out there right now beyond COVID," said John Palmer, the director of public affairs for the association.
No plans for statewide mask mandate
Governor Mike DeWine said during his Wednesday afternoon press conference that he has no plans of introducing a statewide mask mandate. But advised school districts to bring masks requirements back.
"I would urge everyone to think about kids going back to school on Monday, parents, have your child wear a mask. I know that people don't want to do that, but that is the safest thing," he said. " And for school superintendents and school boards, school administrators, please consider putting the mask mandate on if you don't already have it on. At least for a few weeks while we are at this great, great, great surge."
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Download the News 5 app for free to easily access local coronavirus coverage, and to receive timely and limited news alerts on major COVID-19 developments. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.
Vaccinating Ohio - Find the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccines, Ohio's phased vaccination process, a map of vaccination clinics around the state, and links to sign up for a vaccination appointment through Ohio's online portal.
See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.
Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:
Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.
Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.
Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.
Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.
We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.
View a map of COVID-19 testing locations here.
Visit Ohio's Coronavirus website for the latest updates from the Ohio Department of Health.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.