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North Royalton School District cancels all fall sports due to coronavirus concerns; classes will be held online-only for first 9 weeks

The move affects all extracurricular activities 'unless the extracurricular or activity can be held remotely.'

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — As school districts across the state continue to announce their plans for how classes and sports will proceed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, North Royalton has announced a plan that includes the cancellation of all fall sports for the upcoming semester and remote-only learning for the first nine weeks of the school year.

Superintendent Greg Gurka told parents and students in an email Wednesday night that the move was made following the recommendations of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. It affects all extracurricular activities "unless the extracurricular or activity can be held remotely."

In line with the cancellation of sports, all classes will be held remotely with the start date now pushed back to Sept. 1. Learning will remain this way for the entire first academic quarter, and Gurka said that could extend if Cuyahoga County remains under at least a Level 3 "red" alert in Ohio's COVID-19 health alert system.

Gurka said the status of classes and extracurriculars will be reevaluated after the nine-week period, or if conditions improve to a point where they could possibly be held safely. However, as nine weeks would end in early November, it effectively wipes out the fall sports season, including Bears football.

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In the email, Gurka wrote, in part:

"I know that any decision we make will not be agreeable with everyone. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health are the health experts. We have worked with them throughout this pandemic and will continue to adhere to their guidance as we move forward. I have heard and read the spectrum of science, opinions and beliefs that everyone has shared with me regarding this pandemic as well as what should and what should not be done regarding schools. I fully understand and share your frustrations. The reality of this situation is that I cannot with a clear conscience, regardless of the spectrum of opinions shared with me, bring more than 4,500 students and staff back to school when the Cuyahoga County Board of Health says it is unsafe to do so."

During the nine weeks of remote learning, students will be assigned a classroom with a teacher and be given a daily schedule of classes. These online courses will take place either through live or recorded lessons, but should administrators decide to welcome students back to classrooms for the second quarter, parents will have the option to keep their students home.

Gov. Mike DeWine has offered guidelines to schools as to how they may reopen this fall, but other than mandates regarding masks is mostly leaving the final decisions up to individual districts. Likewise, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has given teams the green light to begin practicing, but has also left it up to schools to decide if they will compete or not.

Multiple Cuyahoga County high schools have suspended fall sports following the board of health's recommendation, but North Royalton is the first to effectively cancel them altogether. Richmond Heights did cancel football through 2021, although this was partly due to other factors such as the search for a new coach.