Virtual Start to the Westlake School Year

Virtual Start to the 20-21 School Year

Dear Westlake Families:

On Thursday, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health released a recommendation that schools in the county start the year virtually. On Friday, we participated in a conference call with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH). They shared with us that this was not a recommendation that was taken lightly and several critical factors were considered.

Critical factors for starting the 20-21 school year include:

  1. Average number of daily cases – This number more than tripled between mid-June and mid-July.
  2. Community capacity to test children – This is currently very limited.
  3. Hospital activity – They continue to experience increasing levels of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, including intensive care admissions, related to COVID-19.
  4. Non-congregate settings – A high percentage of recent cases have occurred in non-congregate settings.
  5. Number of cases – Local activity has been identified as being in the “high incidence” category by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. Ohio Public Health Advisory System – We are currently rated as Level 3/Red. Only Level 4/Purple is higher in terms of risk for transmission of COVID-19.
  7. Positivity rates as shown by testing – These have been climbing over the last month.
  8. School-related settings – CCBH has investigated multiple reports of clusters of cases in sports and other “return to play” activities.

The Westlake City School District will follow the recommendation from our Board of Health and plan to open our schools remotely. However, I would like to share some additional thoughts and clarifications.

Parents should plan for the opening of school to be virtual, however, our opening day for students is 5 weeks away. Based upon what we have experienced, a great deal can change in 5 weeks. Our goal has always been to open in some fashion. We are aware that the recommendation will likely not change prior to the start of school. However, if the recommendation changes, we will be ready to open with our Hybrid Plan. If it does not, we will be ready for virtual. Flexibility was key in our planning and we will be flexible as a district.

I am also hesitant to close for a full quarter or semester. We developed three models (All-In, Hybrid, Virtual) so we can move quickly between delivery models based upon the most up-to-date information available. If recommendations change, we want to be back in school.

The Westlake City School District is more than a transaction of knowledge. It is a community where students, staff and parents connect for a shared experience. We value our whole child approach deeply and will open our doors when (or if) the recommendation changes and we can safely return to school, even if it is not at an academic benchmark such as a quarter or semester.

For some families who would prefer or require a set time frame such as a semester, the “Parent Choice” Virtual option is still available through August 7th (registration link here).

Athletics, Clubs and Activities

Earlier in the week, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) released overall guidance for the State of Ohio. Following this release, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health issued the recommendation to close athletics and extracurricular activities.

Last night, the Ohio Department of Health released additional orders that impact athletics, band, and other extracurricular activities. As with academics, our plans are intended to put us in a position to restart activities when possible while keeping students and staff safe.

As we are interpreting these multiple guidelines and orders, we will suspend our sports and extracurricular activities. Athletic teams will delay practices. We will allow coaches to bring in small groups of students to continue to participate in strength and conditioning activities under controlled circumstances. This will help our students maintain their conditioning so when sports resume, they can safely compete. Detailed communication will be shared by our coaching staff in the coming days.

Our Band Camp was also scheduled to begin this week, but it will now be delayed. We will review the released guidelines and orders while we work with Mrs. Patriok regarding next steps for our Marching Band.

As always, we appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we navigate through this pandemic together as a community with the goal of keeping everyone in Westlake safe and healthy. We will continue to provide updates to parents and guardians leading up to the beginning of school. Weekly communication from each building principal will begin on Wednesday.

Sincerely,

Scott Goggin

Superintendent

Westlake City Schools

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