Orange Schools set for possible return to in-person learning; decision expected soon

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio — The Orange City School District continues to prepare for a possible return to in-person learning — via a hybrid model — on Oct. 19, Superintendent Lynn Campbell told the Orange Board of Education Tuesday (Sept. 29).

In a Sept. 23 email to Orange Schools families, Campbell said that if COVID-19 data trends continue in Cuyahoga County — per the county Board of Health’s guidelines — the district is on track to implement its hybrid model on Oct. 19.

The decision is expected to be made after updated data from the county is released on Thursday (Oct. 1). If the county’s status has not elevated to red (Level 3) or purple (Level 4) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, parents would likely be notified by Monday (Oct. 5) of the return to in-person learning, Campbell said.

Cuyahoga County has been at Level 2 (orange) on the alert system since Aug. 21.

Late last week, families in the district were asked to fill out an updated online registration form, indicating whether they still wanted their children to return to in-person learning via the hybrid model, or if they preferred to have them continue with the fully remote model. The deadline for completing that form is Thursday (Oct. 1).

Campbell said that as of Tuesday (Sept. 29), 77 percent of those who had completed the questionnaire opted for the in-person, hybrid model, and 23 percent indicated that they would like to remain in the fully remote model.

“So the in-person number has gone up a little bit,” he said. “It’s pretty equally spread out over all the grade levels.”

Campbell said 1,240 responses had been received and about 700 more were still needed.

“Transportation is running about 50-50,” he said. “About 600 people said they would ride the bus, which is a great number.”

Orange Schools began the academic year in a fully remote model on Aug. 27 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The original plan was to open the year with a hybrid model — in which students would attend school daily for half a day and learn remotely from home the rest of the day — with fully remote learning offered as a second option.

But on July 31, Campbell said the district would shift to a fully remote model for the first semester, which ends Dec. 18. That decision was based on the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s recommendation July 30 for school districts in the county to open remotely due to the county’s Level 3 (red) status.

Campbell and the district’s principals hosted a question-and-answer session via Zoom video conferencing on Thursday (Sept. 24), at which they answered questions related to the potential return to in-person learning.

“It was about two hours, and it was very productive,” he said.

Campbell said the district’s teachers have been doing “a wonderful job” with the remote learning.

“I have yet to have someone put that they have not been happy with the interaction with the teachers,” he said.

Board member Melanie Weltman said she agrees, based on the feedback she has received.

“I think that’s a thread that has run through all of it, and people have been very kind,” she said. “While people are sometimes frustrated, I appreciate how everyone understands that we’re trying to get it right.”

Campbell talked about how scheduling would be handled in the hybrid model for various grade levels. He said documents related to “expectations and procedures” regarding a return to in-person learning would be released to the community for review.

“They may not be perfect, and we can add some things in there (if necessary),” he said.

National Merit Scholars honored

Orange High School seniors Stephen Daly, Steven Fellinger, Benjamin Boardman and Alexander Rosenblatt were recognized by OHS Principal Paul Lucas for their achievements in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Although the meeting was held in person at the Pepper Pike Learning Center, it was live-streamed for the public on the district’s website, and Lucas took part remotely.

Stephen and Steven were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, and Benjamin and Alexander were selected as Commended Students.

Lucas noted that the 2021 National Merit Scholarship competition started in the fall of 2018 with about 1.6 million students across the nation who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Only 16,000 students across the United States were named semifinalists.

Stephen and Steven have the opportunity to compete for the 7,600 scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be awarded in the spring.

Stephen has a cumulative grade-point average of 5.018 and plans to enter the biology/computer science field, Lucas said. Steven, whose cumulative GPA is 4.590, is looking to go into data analytics, sports management or possibly sports analytics, Lucas said.

Benjamin and Alexander will each receive a letter of commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corp., which conducts the program each year.

Benjamin, whose cumulative GPA is 4.586, will likely major in either computer science or political science, Lucas said. Alexander, with a cumulative GPA of 4.709, plans to go into either biology or chemistry, he said.

Lucas noted that the four seniors are also active in extracurricular activities.

“We’ll get to recognize them again in the spring at the senior awards ceremony,” he said.

“It’s an incredible group of students, and I congratulate them. They really represent Orange High School very well.”

They will be missed

The board accepted the retirement of Susan Steines, a teacher at Moreland Hills Elementary School for 16 years, effective Thursday (Oct. 1).

It also accepted the resignation of Gail Paradise, an assistant in Orange Community Education and Recreation for six years, who worked part time at the front desk, effective Sept. 18.

Both women were praised by board members for their service to the district.

Read more from the Chagrin Solon Sun.

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