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Shaker Heights Schools Delays Return to In-Person Learning

photo of an empty classroom
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
School officials say remote learning has impacted student engagement and attendance.

Shaker Heights City School District has reversed plans to bring students back for in-person instruction next week as the coronavirus case count spikes in Cuyahoga County.

But the district is considering options for a return in the near future.

Shaker school officials are launching a weekly communications effort to keep parents in the loop about an eventual return, Superintendent David Glasner said Friday. Families will be notified of the return to on-site learning a minimum of two days in advance, he said.

Teachers for grades K-8 will still return to district buildings Monday to prepare for that eventual move, Glasner said, a delay from the initial plan, which called for some faculty to be back in the building this week.

“That really ensures that when we are ready to pivot back to onsite instruction that all of our classrooms and buildings and teachers are ready to go,” he said.

The return to on-site learning is necessary to meet students’ needs, Glasner said. Students are less engaged and are missing more classes, he said, even as the district works to improve its remote teaching methods.

“We have really strengthened it and made it a lot more robust since the spring and we’ve learned a lot over the past seven months,” Glasner said. “However, we also know that remote learning is not working for all of our students.”

Health and safety measures will be in place when students come back to the buildings, Glasner said, with desks spaced apart and posted signage encouraging masks and proper traffic flow in hallways. School officials also have conducted a ventilation study to determine enough outside air is entering work and learning spaces, he said.

“As a school district, our job and our goal is to meet the needs of our students,” Glasner said. “We have heard quite a bit from students and families from a range of grade levels and perspectives and backgrounds that we are not meeting all of our students’ needs right now.”

But the Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association has been pushing back against plans for a return. The association argues in a statement on its Facebook page that the district’s efforts to bring people back into the building is going against Cuyahoga County public health guidelines.

“The position of the Administration is that our buildings are ready to return to in-person instruction,” the statement says. “The reality is they are not. The health and safety protections the Administration related to the Board as already in place simply are not there as described.”

The association also argues additional safety measures are needed before students can return, including additional Plexiglass barriers and air purifiers. Broken windows in multiple buildings also need to be repaired so teachers can open them, the statement said.

Additional concerns about coronavirus spread in the district come from Cuyahoga County’s designation as a red-level county by the state, the association said.

“Why would we upend the significant strides we have made in virtual learning to return to unsafe classrooms and an imminent shut down in the forseeable future?” the association said. “Isn’t consistency and safety better than a short-lived, disruptive, and dangerous temporary return to schools?”

The teachers’ association is calling for a community survey to assess desire for in-person or remote learning before moving forward with plans to return.
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