Summit School District to move all online following Thanksgiving break
KEYSTONE — After 13 weeks of hybrid learning, Summit School District will be moving all online Nov. 30 following Thanksgiving break.
According to a letter from Superintendent Marion Smith Jr., the district plans to be online until after the new year. Middle and high school students will return to hybrid learning Jan. 4. Elementary students will begin hybrid learning again Jan. 5.
Students who are non-English speakers or have disabilities will have access to limited in-person support, according to the letter.
The decision comes after Summit County’s move to level red on the state’s COVID-19 dial. At a school board meeting Thursday, Nov. 19, Smith said his staff has been spread thin by the rising cases.
“I cannot ask of my staff to do any more,” Smith said in a moment that was charged with emotion.
In level red, schools are not required to go remote. Level red guidance suggests that districts have pre-K through fifth graders in person, with high school and middle school students either learning online or in a hybrid model.
The district has been following that model of learning since school began. However, with whole classes and grades having to be quarantined, the district’s staff is having to work overtime to make up for teaching gaps.
In the letter, Smith wrote that the rising cases “are causing frequent disruptions to learning and creating an unsustainable learning model with abrupt transitions to online learning, creating staffing shortages that can no longer be overcome due to required quarantines and increasing the risk of COVID-19 exposures within our buildings.”
Since the start of school, 96 students and staff members have tested positive for the virus, Chief Operations Officer Drew Adkins said at the school board meeting. Of those, 54% were confirmed positive after Nov. 1.
The announcement likely will come with concern and disappointment from people in the district’s community, especially students. At Thursday’s meeting, multiple Summit High School students spoke about how they felt they needed in-person school.
“It is vital to students’ mental health to be able to go to school, be able to interact face to face with teachers and friends,” Summit High School senior and student body President Foster Krueger said.
Emotions were high among almost everyone at the meeting, with many finding it frustrating that the community is in this place.
“I feel that our school district has knocked it out of the park,” school board President Kate Hudnut said. “I will say that I am disappointed that our community … as a whole has not held up their end of the deal. It hurts me to say that.”
Thursday’s meeting served as an opportunity for board members to give guidance on what decision should be made moving forward.
Desperate to avoid a repeat of the total closure of schools in March, school board Vice President Tracey Carisch said she believes families in the school district would need time to make a transition.
“What I don’t want to have us do is make a trigger decision because, hey, we reached this metric a week and a half from now and parents all think their kids are coming back after Thanksgiving, and now they wake up one day and they’re not,” Carisch said.
Board member Gini Bradley advocated for mental health to be a key factor in the decisions the district makes going forward.
“Whatever the next phase is for our district, we’ve heard loud and clear that mental health is important and is fragile,” Bradley said.
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.