With the ever-changing, day-by-day world of COVID-19, the plans for the upcoming school year have been in flux. The North Royalton School District administration has been trying to keep up with these changes, and have come up with the following plan. The district’s plan is now to start school on Tuesday, September 1, and will only offer remote online learning for the first nine weeks of the school year.
On August 5, North Royalton City School Superintendent Greg Gurka wrote to parents, stating that “I want our families and community to know that I understand the anxiety, uneasiness and uncertainty from everyone as we continue to go down this path of making the decision on how to reopen our schools the safest way possible for our students and staff. As the father of three NRHS graduates who were all actively involved in activities and athletics, the decisions that I and all superintendents in our county, state and country have to make are heartbreaking.”
Gurka stated that “On Thursday, July 30, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) released a recommendation that schools in the county start the year virtually. On Friday, July 31, we were involved with a conference call with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. They shared with us that this was not a recommendation that was taken lightly and several critical factors were considered.” He noted that the factors that were presented to make that decision included the increase in the average number of daily cases; the limited capability to test children, the increased number of hospitalizations; the overall number of cases and positivity rates and the current rating of Level 3/Red.
Many residents addressed the School Board at their August 6 work session. At the regularly scheduled monthly School Board meeting on August 10, about twenty residents, students and parents addressed the Board regarding their thoughts, questions and concerns about students going back to school during COVID-19. “A parent just wants that choice,” stated one parent. “Give us the option, don’t take that away.” Another parent noted that he started a petition and within a short amount of time, he had 250 signatures from residents asking the District to give the choice to the parents. He noted that the Cuyahoga County Board of Health issued a recommendation and that it was up to Board and Administration to make the final decision for North Royalton Schools. Another stated “we stood up, we paid for the levies . . . you need to stand up to make the hard decisions yourself.” One resident asked for a roll call vote to see how each Board member would vote on the opening of the schools. School Board President, John Kelly, stated that it is not the duty of the Board of Education, but of the administration to make that decision. For that reason, he said that there will not be a roll call vote regarding the question. Each member of the Board, however, did say that they supported the administration’s plan.
One resident emailed the district, imploring them to open the schools, quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating “School closure disrupts the delivery of in-person instruction and critical services to children and families, which has negative individual and societal ramifications. The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus. Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children—while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.”
The District released a statement prior to the August 10 School Board meeting, stating that “in keeping with these safety and health protocols, the District is resuming all fall athletics and extracurricular activities… This means our North Royalton High School (NRHS) student-athletes will be able to resume practices as a team, band camp can begin, and Royal Harmony can practice. Our middle school athletic program will proceed in Phase 1 of the reopening guidance from the OHSAA as our NRHS student-athletes similarly did earlier this summer. This will begin on August 17 and go through August 28. We will reevaluate the next steps of the middle school program at that time. Please know all of this is subject to change in an instant depending on data we receive from the state and Board of Health.”
Regarding the opening of schools, at this point, Gurka noted that “ after these first nine weeks, if pandemic conditions change, we will move to our phase plans for in-person and remote learning options for the remainder of the year as long as we can do so in a safe manner for students and staff. There is nothing our teachers and staff want more than to be face to face with our students in our buildings.”
Gurka stated that “even though throughout Northeast Ohio many school districts are starting school remotely like we will, our common goal is to get students back in the classroom. Unfortunately, when we open our schools, we open them to hundreds of students in one building at one time which increases the risk factors for our students and staff. We continue to review the recommendations from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health on providing face-to-face instructional services to small groups of students, particularly those identified with special needs, and will work to implement structures for this in the coming weeks. Hopefully, when health conditions in our region improve, we will be able to continue bringing in more and more students until we are all together in our classrooms and school buildings.”

Contributing Writer