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Ongoing Decision Making Regarding Return to School and Participation In Person

SOLON BOARD OF EDUCATION INFORMATION ITEM-8-24-20 MEETING

CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH RECOMMENDATIONS

For the first time since Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health launched the county-by-county COVID-19 Ohio Public Health Advisory System this summer, Cuyahoga County on August 20 dropped from a Risk Level 3 Red to Risk Level 2 Orange Public Emergency. At Level 2, the state advisory system indicates Cuyahoga County has increased exposure and spread, and the county should “exercise a high degree of caution.”

This change from red to orange is good news and a positive indicator that COVID-19 prevalence trends in our area are starting to improve. However, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health is maintaining its recommendations for the return to school and in-person participation in extra-curricular activities, citing the need for sustained improvement over several weeks. Throughout Ohio, several counties have bounced back and forth between different color risk levels, so clear trends over time are needed to alter the recommendations for school decisions, according to CCBH.

The state color-coded risk advisory system is a “data-driven framework” that provides context for assessing and responding to the spread of COVID-19. However, the CCBH’s recommendations utilize this system as one of several indicators to drive the decision-making process.  

Late last week, the CCBH reiterated the multiple ways it is assessing the risk associated with school decisions:

  • Lower Positivity Rates – Showing a sustained decline of COVID-19 test positivity below 5 percent for multiple weeks.
  • Fewer New Case Reports – Showing a sustained decline in new case reports.
  • County Risk Level of Orange or Below for Several Weeks – Remaining at a lowered risk level for multiple weeks shows sustained improvement in the seven different indicators that reflect impact of COVID-19 in our community.
  • Increased Testing Capacity for Children – Availability of more testing for children and teens. There remains little to no testing for teens and children under 18, complicating the outbreak response in school settings and limiting the outbreak response to symptom-based investigations only.

As we continue our communication with the CCBH, we will use its guidance to drive our own decision making. Should the CCBH guidance recommend a return to in-person learning prior to the end of the first quarter, we would shift to our in-person learning model as quickly as possible.

SOLON BOARD OF EDUCATION INFORMATION ITEM-8-24-20 MEETING

START OF THE SCHOOL YEAR – ONGOING DECISION MAKING

It is hard to believe that the start of the 2020-21 school year is just days away. We have been working all summer on our return to school plan, which includes several contingencies to ensure continued high-quality education for all of our Solon students.

As you know, we are start the year on Wednesday under our fully remote contingency plan. Since the start of the pandemic, we have heeded the recommendations and orders of public health officials and the Governor. At each step of our back-to-school planning we have consulted with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. We have received tremendous support from CCBH in regard to readying our buildings and procedures in compliance with recommended social distancing and prevention measures. Our classrooms, schools, buses and other areas that support student learning are ready for students to return as soon as it is safer to do so.

Members of our Solon Schools administrative team are in constant communication with the CCBH each week. In all of the conversations, it is clear that everyone in the both our school community and in the public health community recognizes the significant importance of in-person learning and participation in activities and athletics for students’ overall well-being.

Throughout the pandemic, our response has been incremental and measured to assure that the safety and health of students, staff and the community at-large remains the top priority. With that being said, we continue to make phased changes and adjustments where we can safely and with the support of public health experts.

Our students with the most intensive instructional needs will now be attending school in person. Our student athletes in non-contact sports this week will be back to modified Phase 2 skills training and our golf and tennis athletes are beginning competition. We are continuing to evaluate with the CCBH a return to competition for all of our fall sport athletes.

We will continue to work as a team to provide additional opportunities for all our students that keeps them engaged and gives them hope for an eventual return to normalcy. We will also return to the aspects of our return-to-school plan that allow for in-person learning and participation when we can.