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Orange schools, other Northeast Ohio districts reconsidering in-person instruction amid rising COVID-19 cases in the state

Orange's superintendent says he is confident in the district's hybrid plan for a return to school.

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio — Learning remotely from home for months, students in the Orange School District in eastern Cuyahoga County were preparing to return to part-time, in-class instruction Monday.

But after the county’s infection rate earned a red designation on the state’s risk scale, school officials postponed a return to the classroom. 

Superintendent Lynn Campbell wrote in an email to parents Thursday:

"The health and safety of our students, staff and community are at the forefront of our decision making as we navigate through providing your children with a quality educational experience during the ongoing pandemic. Our intent was to offer the hybrid in-person/remote learning model beginning Monday, October 19th. Due to Cuyahoga County’s move today (10/15) to Level 3 - Red on the Ohio Department of Health Advisory System, I regret to inform you that we will need to postpone our plans and remain 100% Full Remote learning next week."

RELATED: Cleveland Metropolitan School District pulls back partial reopening plan in response to COVID-19 surge

The news sparked a demonstration Friday at the board of education offices, where about a dozen parents gathered with signs.

"We should not be afraid," Erin Oakley, a parent of two grade schoolers, said. “Our kids need to go to school

"Right now, they are on Zoom for two-and-half hours a day and I commend the teachers. They are doing a good job and my kids are doing okay, but that’s it. Two-and-half hours a day and then they are left to work on their own.”

Oakley praised the district’s plan for hybrid teaching, and noted nearby districts have similar measures in place and are keeping kids in class.

RELATED: Ohio Department of Health to provide pop-up COVID-19 testing in Kent on Sunday

"Beachwood, Solon, they are sticking with their plans," she said. "If don’t every try, we are never going to be able to go back. We need to just try, and we need to trust the science."

Kim Ullner said the burden on working parents is growing, as well as the mental health toll on some teenagers disconnected from their school community.

"There are kids who are really struggling, who need help and not getting that help and there are families who are unable to provide the help they need," she said.  

RELATED: Latinx families struggle with remote learning; language barriers and technology issues increase problems exponentially

Campbell told 3News in an interview Friday afternoon the district’s hybrid plan is "very solid and will work," but that the district is pausing temporarily as coronavirus cases spike. He said he hopes to re-open soon, and the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting on Oct. 26th.

The Cleveland and Lakewood school districts also announced plans to delay plans to bring student back to the classroom. Other districts have said they are reconsidering plans.