The 2020-2021 school year has been and will continue to be an unpredictable year due to COVID-19. How students across the country will be educated could change any day. In the Tallmadge City Schools District, the fate of in-school learning relies on COVID-19.
Superintendent Jeff Ferguson has spent the year monitoring state and local level data in order to make decisions on how students will continue to be educated. Ferguson meets with the Summit County Public Health every Wednesday for local updates and continues to receive updates from the Ohio Department of Health and the Governor’s office.
“Most health experts are warning that it will be a challenging winter. The rapid increase of cases has all of us concerned. Our goal is to keep students in school, safely,” Ferguson said.
According to the New York Times, as of Nov. 16, there have been over 305,000 cases in Ohio, the increase averaging about 7,000 a day. In Summit County there are currently over 10,000 cases, with that number continuing to increase each day.
“One [challenge a school system faces] is the number of positive cases in the community. We know that as spread increases outside of school, [positive cases] will eventually move into schools. This problem would cause us to go all remote for an extended period of time,” Ferguson said.
A problem that is occurring state-wide is a shortage of substitute teachers. As more and more school staff are calling off for COVID-19 related symptoms or are being quarantined due to contact, schools have to hire more and more substitutes. Unfortunately, most schools in Ohio, including Tallmadge, have very little access to them. Ferguson says the staffing shortages would possibly lead to “one day to two weeks” of remote learning.
In case of a switch to remote learning, a plan has been made. Parents, teachers and students at Tallmadge High School have been given a schedule for their remote days at home.
Ferguson said, “I am anticipating the current challenges will be with us for most of the 20-21 school year. I hope people remember that our goal is to have students in school as much as possible and that what we all do outside of school directly impacts our ability to be here.”