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Shaker Heights Students Begin Return To On-site Learning

Shaker Heights schools began a staggered return to in-person learning Thursday after previously delaying plans due to backlash from teachers.

The district will follow a concurrent on-site and remote model moving forward. Classes will be split and rotate either weeks or days of in-person learning, according to the district. Students at home will follow the same lessons.

Between 25 and 30 percent of students have opted to remain completely remote, said District Superintendent David Glasner. Kindergarten students began class Thursday, along with half the students in grades 5-8. The remaining half will be on-site Friday, and the two halves will then begin alternating weeks to reduce the number of students on-site. Grades 1-4 are also staggered from Friday through Tuesday, and high school students will use a hybrid model beginning at the end of the month.

“Many of our students really struggle with the remote learning environment,” Glasner said. “We did get a lot of feedback from families encouraging us to bring students back on-site.”

Shaker schools initially planned to return to in-person learning last week, but faced criticism from faculty over a lack of preparations and safety measures ahead of the return. Teachers called for changes before coming back to the buildings, such as more air purifiers, Plexiglass between desks and repairs to windows that don’t open or close.

The administration has made progress in addressing many of those concerns, said Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association President John Morris.

“The precautions seem to be matching our expectations. It’s not perfect, there are still deliverables we’re waiting for, like Plexiglass at desks and windows that will open,” Morris said. “But air purifiers have arrived and we’re seeing 6 feet of distance between students.”

Faculty feel they would have benefitted from more time to prepare, Morris said.

“Everything has felt like a rush,” he said. “Everything has felt like we could use another week, another two weeks.”

And teachers are worried about the continuing rise in coronavirus cases around the region, he said.

“If kids are bringing infection into the building and they are mingling with other people and bringing the infection out, it doesn’t matter if the infection originated in the building itself,” Morris said.

Faculty also want the administration to develop a remote learning plan should Cuyahoga County reach purple – the highest risk level on the state’s public health advisory system. The teachers’ association is asking the district to follow guidelines established by the county, Morris said.

Glasner said school officials are continuing to evaluate what is safe for students and staff, but the district does not have a set plan for what to do if the county goes purple.

One concern for the district as cases rise is the number of students and staff who may end up having to quarantine due to exposure or a positive test, he said. The district has launched a community information campaign to encourage safe practices in and outside of school buildings, he said, in an effort to combat some of those concerns.

“We know that it’s really going to take a community effort to keep our students on-site,” Glasner said. “We really encourage everyone to practice healthy and safe behaviors in our buildings, but also outside of our buildings.”

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