CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Lakewood school district announced Thursday that it is postponing plans to begin some in-person learning Monday in light of Cuyahoga County being elevated to level red on the state’s coronavirus-risk scale.
And at least two other school districts – Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights-University Heights – publicly indicated Thursday that they also might change their plans for in-person classes because of the surging number of coronavirus infections.
In a statement to parents, the Lakewood district reported that “PreK – 12 students will remain in their current instructional model to start the second quarter. We will continue to plan for the eventual return of in-person instruction.”
Shaker Heights City School District sent an email to parents on Thursday citing the change in alert and saying that the district is “evaluating our instructional plans for a return to onsite learning.”
And Cathan Cavanaugh, spokeswoman for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights district, told cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer that the county’s elevated status “may have some implications” for a draft plan to shift Nov. 4 to a blend of in-school and remote learning.
The county Board of Health has a virtual meeting scheduled Friday with school officials, but board spokesman Kevin Brennan told cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer that he does not expect the board to offer new guidance based on the county’s designation.
Brennan noted that the board provided schools with written guidelines last month for reach of the four levels on the state’s coronavirus alert scale – yellow, orange, red and purple.
“That’s meant to be sort of a lasting thing,” he said of the guidelines for schools. ” . . . So really, the balls in their court.”
The guidelines say that when the county’s risk level is designated as red schools should consider virtual-only classes, with an exception for students needing special education.
Cuyahoga County started the school year under a red designation and the Board of Health recommended remote learning rather than in-person classes. The status of the county improved to orange on Aug. 20, but the board did not change its recommendation because it’s not uncommon for counties to jump up and down from one alert level to another.
In mid-September, the board issued the written guidance, which suggests a return to hybrid learning when the county remains in orange status for four weeks and test positivity is less than 5%.
The Cleveland school district, the county’s largest with 37,000 students, was not immediately available to report on any possible changes.
Eric Gordon, the district’s CEO, said last month that he expected to make a recommendation Friday as to whether schools in the district would shift to some level of in-person learning.
In that address, Gorton said the district “would monitor public health data, including Cuyahoga County’s rating and trends on Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System and Cleveland-specific trend data available from the Cleveland Board of Public Health. We will continue to consult with public health experts as well. “
Gorton said at the time that trends locally were improving but that health experts warned colder weather and flu season could see a surge in the virus “and it is this real-time data, as we end September and enter October, that must guide any decisions for how second quarter will begin in early November.”
He said his recommendation would also be based on other factors, including how effective online learning has been.