PARMA, Ohio — As school districts make plans to resume classes in the fall, some of them are relying on the state's color-coded map of COVID-19 risk.
That's the case in Parma, where the district has already spent close to $1 million to get students back to school safely.
Charles Smialek, superintendent of Parma City Schools, said the district is preparing for several possibilities when it comes to returning to school, dependent upon Cuyahoga County's alert level. If the county remains at Level 3, students will return to class part of the time on alternating days and will do the remainder of their coursework online.
Classes would move to completely online if the county moves to Level 4, but if the county drops to Levels 1 or 2, students would return to class in person every day.
"We will use those Thursday releases of those maps as indicators of what we will do the following week," Smialek said. "So, for instance, if we're in the third week of October, we switch to purple and Cuyahoga County is in that sort of lockdown mode, then we will go fully virtual."
Smialek said he understood that would be tough on families.
"We feel for the fact that many of our families are two parents that are working or it's only one parent in the home and that parent’s working," Smialek said. "And now we're not providing five days of education."
Smialek added, "We know five days is best. We want five days as well. But we have to be able to do so in a safe manner."
Lady Feliciano, who has children in the district, said she wasn't sure how that would work for families.
"I don’t know how’s that going to work, for people going three days to school, going to stay home two days and for moms working too, it’s going to be very hard," Feliciano said.
Feliciano said she was also concerned about her children's health if they do go back in person.
"I’m a little scared, because of one of my boys, he's got asthma," Feliciano said. "And to have the mask during the day in school, for him to breathe, I think [it] is going to be a little bit hard."
Smialek said the biggest expense so far was approximately $370,000 from the permanent improvement budget, which is funded by taxpayer dollars in the form of levies, to replace tables in classrooms with desks that will help students stay further apart.
In addition, the district has bought items like disinfectant, masks and hand sanitizer. The district has received some funding from the CARES Act and from FEMA and hopes to get more federal funding in the future.
"This is only to begin," Smialek said of the money spent so far. "As we go forward, if we're looking at a full year, you could potentially see certainly doubling, tripling, quadrupling your cost of hand sanitizer, especially. I mean, we have to have that. We know that's one of the key steps to making sure that our students are safe."
He added that there could be some fluctuation in cost in terms of overtime pay to custodians and if there are any new outbreaks.
"The federal government has been helpful," Smialek said. "Again, it's going to be a question of how long do we go in terms of needing to provide these supplies, these materials, and can we continue to count on the funding streams, such as federal government funding that we've been appreciative [of] to this point."
Janice Cherni, who has grandchildren in Parma City Schools, said she thinks in-person classes will have to be smaller to keep students safe.
"I believe in the distancing, maybe a smaller class, but they really need to go back to school," Cherni said. "I think it’s going to affect them mentally. They’re not getting the social contact they need to get."
Smialek said reopening successfully relies on a pyramid.
"The most important part of the pyramid is safety," Smialek said. "Second will be social, emotional support. And the third really is instruction."
He added, "We have to make sure that our students are feeling safe in their environment, that they're feeling supported, that they have people that they can talk to about any difficulty they might be experiencing at home. Might be a job loss, might be a lost relative, etc. If we can solidify those things then we've got a shot at making our instruction effective."
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.
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.
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.
See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.
The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.