PARMA, Ohio — Exactly three weeks after Parma City Schools started the 2020-2021 school year, the district is poised to now shift from remote learning to a hybrid model beginning tomorrow (Sept. 29).
Parma City Schools Superintendent Charles Smialek promised students would be in school two days a week if the county level remains orange or level 2 — related to the color-coded state public health advisory system, which currently finds Cuyahoga County in orange or level 2 — for three weeks leading up to Sept. 24.
On Tuesday, remote learning begins with an orientation for grade levels — kindergarten, fifth and eighth grade — entering new schools. The full hybrid model begins on Wednesday.
“We worked hard at social distancing measurements in our schools,” Smialek said. “We have hand sanitizer throughout our buildings and traffic patterns are appropriate to minimize congestion. Nothing is going to be perfect in a COVID era.”
All staff and students are required to wear masks. The latter will be allowed to remove their masks when they’re eating and drinking or when they’re elevating their heart rate during recess or gym.
“We’re not going to have three or six feet of distance between students at all times, but anytime that’s going to happen we need to double down on washing hands, wearing face masks,” Smialek said. “The reality is when you look at our schools and the size of them, it’s impossible to be distant at all times. That’s when you take the other measures really seriously.
“Also, water fountains are closed. Restrooms are open, but we’re trying to monitor those best we can to keep small numbers. Water bottle use by students will be on a school-by-school basis.”
Parma City School District’s pandemic instruction plan finds remote learning for purple and red (level 4 and level 3), a hybrid model with two days of in-person instruction for students divided into two groups followed by virtual learning for orange (level 2) and traditional in-school model five days a week for yellow (level 1).
For hybrid learning, the district is employing a 1/2/2 model with no in-class school on Mondays followed by students with last names beginning with A to K attending Tuesday and Wednesday. Students with last names L to Z attend Thursday and Friday.
While 2,200 students committed to remote learning for a semester at the Parma Virtual Learning Academy (PVLA), roughly 7,300 students throughout the district will be in hybrid learning.
The superintendent said over the last couple of weeks he’s talked to other districts, which opened the school year in hybrid fashion. A common concern was how to handle the three days each student is at home.
Some districts are streaming classroom activity to pupils; however, Smialek said that ends up being problematic for teachers catering to both in-person and at-home student audiences. That’s why Parma City Schools are posting assignments and learning experiences.
On the upside, the superintendent said other schools aren’t having safety issues offering in-person instruction during a pandemic.
“The districts that have come back have really not had a lot of concerns about in-school experiences,” Smialek said. “Students are taking the mask mandate seriously. Administrators I’ve been talking to are pleasantly surprised by how compliant students are with that, so we’re anticipating we’ll have that same spirit here.
“Folks are realizing that if we want to be in-school and stay in school and eventually get back to a five-day week, we have to be very safe and take our health seriously.”
As far as the possibility of moving to a full five-day in-person instruction, which other districts in the area are discussing, Smialek is taking one step at a time.
“What we’ve learned this year is to be flexible,” Smialek said. “Conditions can change very rapidly, so we’re trying to sort of get out of the prognostication business.
“We’re going to make the best judgements we can based on the data we have, but also we have to look at how we’re doing, how have we acclimated and are folks taking the social distancing measures seriously. We want students back — and we want to come back to a five-day week — but there are a number of factors that are going to influence that.”
Read more news from the Parma Sun Post here.
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