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The Big Test Part 3: Students weather changing school settings as virus cases rise

Posted at 5:23 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 18:36:16-04

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — ​This was not the senior year Nathan Lazich was promised.

"It's just a dull life now," the Normandy High School student said about seven months of living through a pandemic.

Well on his way toward graduation with several college classes this semester, Lazich was looking forward to the social aspects of senior year.

But as cases of COVID-19 rise across Ohio, schools are taking another look at their plans for the fall semester. Shaker Heights, Strongsville, Lakewood and Cleveland Metropolitan School District are re-evaluating the initial plans.

RELATED: List: Northeast Ohio school districts roll back reopening plans as COVID-19 cases spike

Some students in Parma started a hybrid program —half of the week in school and the other half of the week on virtual learning—at the end of September.

Originally, the Parma City School District had Nov. 16 in sight for all students to come back in person for the entire week.

But Cuyahoga County went to a "red" status level on the state's chart earlier this month.

That status stalled efforts to get Parma kids back in classrooms.

"It's pretty hard to keep schools open when you have massive spread of the COVID in your community," Gov. Mike DeWine said in his Oct. 15 briefing.

As of Thursday, DeWine said 92.8% of Ohioans are living in red Level 3 or high incidence counties.

Because of this, Parma halted their hybrid program and sent students back home for virtual learning for the week of Oct. 19.

"I don't know how they keep up with it," Lazich said about how students are dealing with the fluid school setting. "I know of a few people who are actually worried and stressed out about being able to remember their schedules now because we have to essentially remember three of them."

The pandemic is still weighing heavy on decisions made by districts but Lazich and his friends are trying to get on with life.

"Most of my friends are just the kind of people who just chug on no matter what's going on," Lazich said.

As cases of COVID-19 rise in the county, incidents of the virus are also appearing in classrooms.

Since the state started requiring districts to report cases, two students and two staff members in the Parma district tested positive. In the last few weeks, 60 people have been in quarantine.

Not all districts are seeing cases but students in COVID-free districts still worry.

"Makes me feel kind of sad because they just started getting back to school and now they have to get back to online," Xavier Nixon said.

Nixon is in the fourth grade at Breakthrough Schools. His sister, Milie, is in the eighth grade.

Both are staying home and taking classes virtually for the entire semester.

"The best thing in the world is where they're like, 'okay, you can leave. Bye.' and you just close the computer," said Milie Nixon.

Even though this semester isn't over, families have to start thinking about plans for January.

Milie and Xavier's parents want them both back in school if it is safe.

But the Nixon children have other ideas.

"I definitely choose online in a heartbeat," Milie said.

"I don't know how I feel going back to school," Xavier said.

Lazich is still looking for some normalcy during his last year of school.

"Personally, I want to go back for my last semester."

RELATED: Cuyahoga Co. among 3 counties on watch list for Level 4, highest on state's COVID-19 advisory system