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Cuyahoga Falls music teacher urges school district to reconsider more remote learning amid COVID-19 concerns

Shelby Miller turned to social media to tell officials that social distancing is not happening during full in-person learning.

CLEVELAND — It’s a challenge just about every school district is facing: How to balance the safety of teachers, staff and students with the benefits of classroom instruction. And it’s only getting more complicated as coronavirus cases spike and some parents push to send their kids back.

In Cuyahoga Falls, elementary school children returned to fulltime instruction just this week, which has some teachers speaking out against the move, including music teacher Shelby Miller. She was told there was no time for her to raise her concerns during a Wednesday school board meeting. So, she took her comments to social media.

“Six feet become three feet, became three feet, when possible,” she said about her experience in school during a four-minute YouTube video. “Sixteen students to a room become 20 students to a room became 24 students to a room, sometimes more.”

She said she teaches 500 students a day at two elementary schools and is often crammed into small classrooms. She pleaded for a return to hybrid or fully remote learning.

“This means I’m am tasked with teaching elementary school children without the ability to sing or play instruments and telling my students they can’t sing is a daily occurrence and it breaks my heart every single time,” she said on the video.

She said she is worried teacher concerns are being ignored.

“Your teachers don’t feel cared for,” she said. “We are scared. We don’t feel seen. We don’t feel valued. And we definitely don’t feel heard.”

Based on survey responses from parents, and relatively few cases of covid-19 cases in schools, the district offered full-time learning to parents who opted in.

In a statement to 3News, Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Todd Nichols acknowledged Miller’s post and said, “We evaluate all of the buildings in our district and look for ways to create more space in our classrooms and enhance the safety procedures.” (You can read Nichols full statement below.)

The superintendent was out of town and not available for an on-camera interview. But his statement says the district evaluates the situation daily and has not ruled out the possibility of again changing the learning options based on the safety concerns.

Miller ends her video with this: “This is hard, all really, really hard. But I urge you to consider the consequence to sending us back full time. Risks don’t outweigh the reward. I hope you will listen and see that your teachers feel this way.”

Dr. Todd Nichols: While we couldn’t hear Shelby’s comments at this week’s Board of Education meeting due to time restraints, that doesn’t mean they’re not important to us. We value and appreciate all of our staff’s thoughts and contributions. They are an essential part of our community and extremely important as we navigate through this challenging time.

We take the safety of both our staff and students very seriously. Each day, we evaluate all of the buildings in our district and look for ways to create more space in our classroom and enhance the safety procedures already in place. And, we’ve invested heavily in PPE and establishing strong safety protocols.

While we are in our current schedule today, that doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. We’re in constant contact with Summit County Public Health and districts around our county, evaluating the situation daily.

We really want what’s best for our children, staff and community. Taking best interest in the health and safety of our students and staff is our number one goal, however, it can be difficult in the fluid environment of COVID-19. We will continue to work with teachers, administrators, and the various pockets of the community to create a safe learning experience for all.

You can watch Shelby Miller's YouTube video below:

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