COPLEY, Ohio — The COVID-19 pandemic has created several challenges for Northeast Ohio's school districts, and many are having to adjust on the fly.
In Summit County, Copley-Fairlawn City Schools announced students would be able to return to in-person classes by the end of the month. The district began the school year with remote learning.
In a letter posted on the district’s website, Superintendent Brian Poe said the move to bring students back came after reviewing data with the Summit County Public Health Department.
"We have had the opportunity to review the most recent data from the Summit County Public Health Department," Poe wrote. "While there are areas of concern, the data is remaining stable. The latest data has shown a decrease in the pediatric case rate. The seven-day average number of cases reported has decreased steadily since August 30. The positivity rate remains around 4% for the State of Ohio, which is a very good percentage. These are all positive signs."
The district plans to return to in-person learning for all K-12 students beginning Sept. 28. Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said schools are left with difficult decisions on how to balance quality education and keeping kids safe, but she notes that there’s always a risk.
"When kids get together, I fully expect Copley-Fairlawn Schools will have cases," she said. "Anytime you put somebody together, it can happen."
As schools readjust their plans, Skoda said families should, too.
"Honestly, I think the best thing to remember is if your kids are back in school, which is really, really good, then you still have to limit the number of activities that you do because you’re going to add one more risk layer," she noted.
Skoda said each school is different, but they all must remain flexible and adjust protocols when necessary to keep kids safe. For instance, in Lake County, the Willoughby-Eastlake School District was forced to send home more than 70 students after a positive case was reported. The students are now learning remotely until it’s safe to return to class.
Superintendent Steve Thompson said social distancing was a challenge at the district’s School of Innovation, since it offers a collaborative approach where students work together. Now, the district is readjusting their return plan.
"We are taking some of those shared spaces where they would’ve collaborated in small groups and not using some of those spaces now," he told 3News.
At this point, Thompson said no additional cases have been reported and no official date has been set for the students to return to the school.