CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio -- Chagrin Falls Schools Superintendent Robert Hunt said he feels very good about the progress the district is making in mitigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The systems were using are working great, and students are practicing all of these things across the board very well, and we appreciate that for sure, Hunt told the Chagrin Falls Board of Education on Wednesday (Sept. 16).
Hopefully, the trends continue for us to keep practicing the things that were doing, and that will set us up for success and conversations about coming back to school with potentially all of our students," he said.
Hunt said the districts COVID-19 dashboard is available to the public on its website and is being updated weekly. It is being used to track active COVID-19 cases in the district, health and safety, student and staff attendance, and the current levels for Cuyahoga and Geauga counties in the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System.
As of Sept. 10, when the dashboard was last updated, the district had no active student or staff cases of COVID-19 and only one student and staff case since Aug. 1. Both Cuyahoga and Geauga counties were at Level 2 (orange) in the alert system. The school district serves students from both counties.
The school board met in person in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center at Chagrin Falls High School, with all members wearing face masks and seated at least 6 feet apart. The meeting was not live-streamed, due to technical difficulties, but a recording of it was made available Thursday morning (Sept. 17) on the districts website.
The Chagrin Falls Schools opened Aug. 31 in a hybrid model, with students in grades 1-12 attending school in person for half the day and learning remotely for the other half. Students also have the option of learning at home via a fully remote model.
Hunt said he will discuss next steps for the school district in this process at the boards next meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 7. In a virtual district update on Sept. 10, he said the district will remain in the hybrid model until at least the first full week of October.
New document not an order
Hunt also discussed a resource document that was recently released by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to provide updated COVID-19 guidance for school districts in the county.
This is not an order for us to follow, he said. Its a framework for decision-making, one more piece of information that the Board of Education and administrative team can use to help guide our decision-making as we balance the risk for the COVID transmission.
Hunt added that the document highlights that the best information depends heavily on the level of community transmission (of COVID-19), which were tracking.
Hunt said he has received a few questions from the community on how this document applies to the school district.
Ive just said its one more piece of information, he said. "We feel really good about the metrics that we have and will continue to evaluate, and we feel really good about the data that were seeing through the opening of school.
I think our community is doing very well, and well continue to monitor that over the next couple weeks and will take whatever next steps are needed based on the data that we have.
Pay rate for subs increased
In other action, the board approved a rate increase for substitute teachers to $105 per day. The previous rate was $95 per day.
Its a very competitive market out there, Hunt said. "We did a study that found we were below average (for substitutes' rate of pay), so this puts us (on more equal footing) with other local school districts.
The pool (of substitutes) is very thin now, so were just trying to be as competitive as possible.
The board also approved the hiring of three permanent building substitute teachers. They are Kathryn Pollock, Melinda Sawicki and Emily Beal.
Beal had resigned in May as a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School.
Committee urges levy support
Board President Phil Rankin read another letter from the co-chairs of the Chagrin Falls Schools Levy Committee, urging community support of the 3.85-mill operating levy on the Nov. 3 ballot. The co-chairs are Tamera Chess, Carrie Hawk and Marlo Peck, all parents in the district.
This is a no-tax-increase levy that will keep your tax bill flat, so a yes vote will keep your tax bill exactly where it has been and where it will be for the next three years, they wrote. Your yes vote will sustain Chagrin for the next three years.
The co-chairs explained that this is possible because the 3.85 mills aligns with the bond payment that taxpayers have been making to fund the cost of Chagrin Falls Middle School, which was built in 1997. The bonds that have been collected for the construction of the middle school will mature in December, so that payment will be coming off the tax bills.
If we pass the levy, it will continue to provide operations without increasing the amount of taxes paid by our residents through this levy cycle, they wrote. "So passing this levy is critical to sustaining programming and minimizing further reductions by the district.
However, if the levy fails, Chagrin (Falls Schools) will have to request a greater mill rate in the spring operating levy, and that would increase your taxes, they continued. There will be further cuts to carry Chagrin Falls Schools through 2020 if we rely on that spring 2021 levy.
In Cuyahoga County, the levy will appear as Issue 67 on the ballot, and in Geauga County, it will be Issue 20.
The co-chairs added that if there are any questions about the levy, they can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Virtual town hall meetings to discuss the levy are set for Tuesday (Sept. 22) and Sept. 29, both at 6 p.m. Hunt and district Treasurer Ashley Brudno will make a presentation, then answer questions.
Donation for technology
The board accepted a donation of $178,245 from the Chagrin Falls Educational Foundation. Brudno said this donation will go toward the cost of the new technology that has been implemented throughout the district as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and having to increase our online educational offerings.
This provides significant relief for us that probably would have had to come from our general fund if we had not received this donation, Brudno said.
Rankin added, We greatly appreciate that from the educational foundation.
Read more from the Chagrin Solon Sun.
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