PARMA, Ohio — School districts across Cuyahoga County face new decisions about reopening in the fall, after the county's board of health recommended school resume with virtual classes and all extracurricular activities should be suspended.
The recommendations came as COVID-19 cases surged in recent weeks.
"Our data here in the county clearly indicate that the current level of community transmission for COVID is significant," said Health Commissioner Terry Allan. "It's important to recognize that when schools reconvene with in-person classroom, or extracurricular activities, we anticipate outbreaks of COVID."
Health officials said Friday they hope that by keeping students home, it will reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
Parma City School's superintendent called the recommendation a "game changer" for the district.
"We know that they didn't come to this conclusion by themselves and they didn't take this lightly and for us to just sort of turn a blind eye to their advice, we think would be irresponsible," said Superintendent Charles Smialek.
Smialek said the district had planned to use a combination of in-person and online teaching when classes resumed Sept. 8. The district is now reviewing those plans.
"We have planned for all three different scenarios," Smialek said. "Because we knew that the coronavirus sets the timeline. They set the structure. We don't. That's a variable we don't control."
Smialek expects to announce a decision about what school will look like Sunday evening.
On Friday, the district indefinitely suspended all extracurricular activities for the district's 9,500 students.
He said ignoring the county's recommendations could put the district at risk.
"If there was to be some kind of outbreak or some type of incident related to coronavirus where we have clearly disregarded the county's advice, we could look at a substantial liability case," Smialek said.
Brooklyn Schools Superintendent Dr. Theodore Caleris told News 5 his district hopes to have a revised reopening plan sometime early next week.
"Yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBOH) issued a recommendation to "discontinue extracurriculars such as sports, band, theater, choir and other activities during the remote learning period," Caleris said. "Effective Saturday, Aug. 1st, at 7 a.m., all athletic and extracurricular activities will be suspended until further notice. Additionally, the district administrative team will be assessing the other recommendations from the CCBOH. This is an incredibly sad development for all of us, especially for our students and staff that have worked so hard this summer. I am hopeful that the measures that we take today will give our staff and students the opportunity to compete and perform this fall season."
Leslie Koblentz, MD, Chief Clinical Officer Consultant, ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County told News 5 parents need to start preparing for remote learning at their homes as soon as possible.
“You need to be open and honest with your kids, that’s always the best policy, they’re going to take cues from you," Koblentz said. “Try to include all kinds of things, you need sports, you need artwork, you need creativity. Kids by nature are unorganized, they don’t know how to do these things, we have to help them. Give them a calendar, let them have a place they can do their work.”
"Schedule a break, some students need snacks often, they might metabolize quickly—it doesn’t need to be anything fattening. Younger kids do better with a chart, a rewards chart. I did it with my children, two of them needed it, and they can turn those rewards into something when they’ve accomplished their school work.”
Koblentz said parents who need advice or support in dealing with remote learning should contact the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County 24-hour crisis hotline at 216-623-6888.
Koblentz said children can find remote support by texting the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor.