The data is in and most local parents want to see their children back in the classroom come fall.
Each family in the school district was emailed a survey June 1 that provided them with the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions regarding plans for next school year. The survey closed June 7 and results were shared at the June 8 Board of Education meeting. Results are also viewable via the school district’s website. Survey input will help guide officials as they create plans for next school year.
Nearly half of North Royalton school families (45.4 percent/1,772 people) took the survey and recorded their responses. 40.4 percent said remote/virtual learning was “fair,” in responses that included “successful for my child” (28.2 percent) and “difficult for our family” (28.3 percent). Questions gauged parents’ opinions on sending their children to school in the fall: 64.4 percent of survey takers said they would be “comfortable with minimal or no concerns” in having their child return to school in the fall “if public health officials believe it is safe to allow in-person instruction.” In later questions, 73.1 percent of survey takers noted they would send their children to school with distancing guidelines in place. In a follow-up question asking parents if they will send their children to school if masks were required, 60.8 percent of survey takers answered yes.
Officials have the large task of creating plans that work for every family – those choosing to send their child to school or keep them home learning virtually.
“If we have that percentage that is unsure or will not return to school, what do we need to do with that, and how do we make school safe for the 73 percent, but also work for the other percentages,” said Superintendent Greg Gurka.
In an email to the community June 12, Gurka wrote, “We know our ultimate goal is to have students in school all day, five days a week, based on the physical distancing requirements and other health guidelines. We need to determine if that is feasible and, if not, how do we best serve the needs of our students.”
In a telephone interview, Gurka noted “there’s no magic to this,” referencing creating opening plans with his team members, and like anything else, Gurka said he is taking in all the information available, from school reopening guidelines in other states, to discussions with other superintendents, to weekly meetings with the Alliance For High Quality Education, a council of governments comprised of roughly 60 Ohio school districts.
“We’re always sharing information and talking with each other,” Gurka said. “Right now, we’re in the ‘give me all the information I can get’ mode and we’re waiting for our guidelines from the state.”
Plans will be driven based on the guidelines and prescriptive orders the district receives from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Ohio Department of Education, Gurka said in a news article posted at
The survey also presented respondents with a variety of options for what next school year might look like. Just 12.3 percent said off-site, online learning for all students would be “excellent.” Options ranged from splitting in-school instruction time alphabetically by last names to dividing time in the classroom by grade level. Of all the options presented in the survey, 46.5 percent of families rated “Students with last names beginning with A-L attend school following social distancing requirements two days per week, students with last names beginning with M-Z attend another two days per week, (and) one day is reserved for deep cleaning and the rest of the school week is off-site and online” as their most highly desired learning scenario for next school year.
A formal plan will be announced by the beginning of August. In the meantime, officials will continue to gather community input, await guidelines and directives from the state and put together various plans that include all students. “Officials are also discussing procedures for busing and transportation, a hot-button topic around the state,” Gurka said. Preliminary possibilities would require one student per school bus seat, with siblings being allowed to sit together.
Whatever the outcome for next school year, Gurka wants parents to know that they – and of course the students – remain top priority and the impact these return-to-school plans have on local families. Leaders recognize that every family structure is unique. For some, access to the Internet or a reliable Wi-Fi connection poses a challenge, while others struggle with child-care or keeping their child engaged with virtual learning.
“All those things are things that are not in the back, but rather in the forefront of our minds,” Gurka said of providing support to families.
The first day of school for the North Royalton City Schools is Aug. 19. Gurka noted that another parent survey may be sent out, as well as the meeting of a focus group as plans are formulated.
“We will keep the community engaged in what we are doing throughout the summer,” he said.

Contributing Writer