Akron Public Schools could start entirely online this fall

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – When the new school year begins this fall Akron Public Schools could begin entirely online.

The option was offered to members of the Akron School Board by Superintendent David James during the board’s most recent meeting.

James, who has also previously offered a comprehensive blended plan that includes both online and in school learning, voiced concerns about bringing kids back into the district’s classrooms.

“Looking at some of the stories, not just here in Ohio and Summit County, but around the country, I think schools are coming to the realization that it is going to be very challenging  to open up to in-person learning in the fall,” James told the school board.

“We know that some of the largest districts in the country like Los Angeles Unified and San Diego and several others are looking at remote learning. From where I sit that might be something we may need to look at starting our school year and work as remote, 100 percent remote learning,” he added.

Akron’s school board is weighing all of its options.

School Board President Patrick Bravo says the board wants to open schools safely, not quickly.

 “We have 21,000 students. We have almost 45 hundred full and part-time faculty and staff and so we have a lot to consider here and we will continue to look at all of those options,” said Bravo.

The plans the board is considering include spacing students in classrooms, masks and cleaning and sanitizing schedules for school buildings and classrooms.

Planning for attendance and any outbreak within the schools is also a consideration.

“I can see us, just like we have had in some of our past flu seasons where we might not be able to staff a building or we are getting close to a point where we have large numbers of staff and students not present,” James told the board. “It will be very difficult to run school and that could happen at multiple buildings.”

Another consideration is a survey of parents.

James said 10,000 parents were polled by e-mail and given all options. They were then asked which one they would most prefer to return their students to school.

The largest number of parents responded that they would prefer to start the year with online-only learning.

James told the board that any plan needs to remain flexible understanding that things can easily change week-to-week.

“I would say we should probably take a look at things a quarter at a time so midway through a semester evaluate where things are going and make plans accordingly on how to make adjustments,” James said.

The board was also told that should they choose an online-only option the district would expect it to be more robust than the virtual classroom experience they were forced into this past March.

The board is also considering the option of delaying the start of the school year to give teachers and faculty more time to prepare once they have made their decision

“We care very deeply,” Bravo said. “We want our kids to come back to school. We want them to get the education that they deserve, but we also want to know that everyone is safe and we are doing the best that we can.”

“It’s going to be difficult to come up with the perfect plan. It’s going to be difficult to please 100 percent of the people with 100 percent of the plan, but I hope that it’s clear from our deliberations over the last several weeks that we are being very thoughtful about our plan,” he continued.

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