Austintown district tries to ease fears | News, Sports, Jobs – Youngstown Vindicator - Freelance Rack

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Austintown district tries to ease fears | News, Sports, Jobs – Youngstown Vindicator

Austintown Local Schools Superintendent David Cappuzzello talks to parents about the plan for reopening schools in the fall five days a week with safety precautions and a virtual option for families who feel safer staying home Thursday night in the Fitch High School Auditorium. Around 60 people attended the forum in person, and another 920 tuned in to the live stream.

AUSTINTOWN — In a forum designed to ease families’ fears about the quickly approaching back-to-school season in the midst of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the message to families in the Austintown Local School District is that they have options.

Superintendent David Cappuzzello laid out three choices for students — a five-day in-person option with social distancing and safety measures; a remote option in which students will follow their daily class schedules; and the district’s already structured e-learning program.

The remote learning plan will have students watching the teachers they would have in class live over Zoom videoconferencing during their normal class times. At the same time, those teachers will be instructing students who choose to be in the classroom.

As for those classrooms, they’re going to look a little different — students attending in person will be spaced 6 feet apart, and the district has purchased approximaytely 4,000 plexiglass shields for desks. Older students will likely be responsible for wiping down the desk shields before and after classes.

“This is making it as normal as possible but still keeping them safe,” said Brittany Morell, district marketing and public relations specialist.

Approximately 60 people attended the forum Thursday night in Fitch’s auditorium. More than 900 tuned in to the livestream.

“I love the fact that they have four options for students — I should say for parents,” said Krista Matlock of Austintown, mother of an elementary student.

She said she will discuss it with her husband before choosing an option, but liked that in the virtual learning option students experience the same class as students who are attending in-person.

Chesa Cowan of Austintown, the mother of a high school student in the district, said she was most eager to hear about how the school would be sanitized. After the meeting, she said she is planning on sending her daughter back to school in person, though she will see how her daughter feels first.

“I feel like they are going to do the best they can,” said Rosa Spelich, mother of first- and second-grade students. “It’s really important for the kids to be here five days a week, or at least have the option.”

Spelich pointed to families with working parents, whose jobs depend on their children returning to school.

District officials said the in-person and live Zoom learning options are both aimed at providing a high quality education and keeping the school structure.

Cappuzzello also talked about additional precautions the district is taking, including hiring 12 permanent substitutes. The substitutes already will be familiar with their building and will be ready to step in if a teacher has to quarantine.

Students will wear masks when entering and exiting the building, on the bus and during hallway traffic.

District nurse Bethany Martinez said the district is looking into purchasing thermal cameras that can read the temperatures of several students at once. Isolation rooms will be set up in each building for students displaying a high fever or COVID-19 symptoms.

“We promise we will do everything we can to keep your kids safe,” Martinez told parents.

Still, Cappuzzello said the district knows they will have cases of the virus, and plans are in place to deal with cases among teachers or students.

“Someone is going to come down with it,” Cappuzzello said. “We know that. We have 4,400 kids.”

Students who are confirmed COVID-19 positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days, but will be able to utilize remote learning tools.

The district is expected to release more details in the coming weeks, and some plans will be specific to the building or the course. The district isn’t planning to cancel any hands-on classes in the elementary school or electives in the high school, but will need to change the way those operate on a course-to-course level, according to curriculum director William Young. As of right now, there will be no field trips this year.

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