First Nine Weeks At Parma City Schools Will Be Online

Parma City Schools marching band
Band is among the extracurricular activities the Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommends temporarily suspending. [Parma City Schools]

The Parma City School District will begin the school year remotely, according to a message sent to families Sunday night.  In the email, district officials said “we accept the County Board of Health's recommendation and plan to instruct our students remotely for at least the first nine weeks of the 2020-2021 school year.”

Last Thursday, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommended that all schools start the year virtually. The board also suggested canceling any extracurricular activities, including sports and drama, during the remote learning period.

Health officials cited many factors for their reasoning including the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases has tripled in the county between mid-June and mid-July, the capacity to test children is very limited, and hospitals and ICU’s are increasingly filled with coronavirus patients.

In an interview with ideastream following the county health board’s announcement, Parma Schools superintendent Charles Smialek said the district’s administration and school board would discuss whether to move to learning completely online in light of the “strong presence of community spread in our area.”

“We are seeing some pretty damaging statistics right now. We continue to see records broken seemingly on a daily basis,” said Smialek. “So all of those factors have really started to force us to enter a situation where that vision of bringing students back becomes farther and farther from the reality we think we can create.”

Smialek said the district had been preparing to move forward with one of three teaching models: all in-person classes, a hybrid model or all remote learning.  

The district spent the summer preparing for virtual teaching, according to the superintendent.

Parma “is getting better at Google,” he said, including getting 150 staff members Google certified so they can help their colleagues.

They’re also shaping online learning techniques based on survey feedback from families about the remote learning period last spring.

One of the biggest complaints, Smialek said: “We had too many different logins. There were too many different places to go to get information.”

He added a point of positive feedback: “They really enjoyed the set meetings schedules. Their children did better when there was a set schedule for engagement, as opposed to simply just posting assignments and letting students work through. So, we've gone ahead and taken that advice that our parents gave us.”

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