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School reopenings in the Mahoning Valley: Everything to know

Here's a guide to the varying plans local schools have for the new school year.
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via Unsplash | Deleece Cook

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct that the Sebring Local School and the Maplewood Local Schools starting dates are Aug. 24.]

YOUNGSTOWN — With less than a month until the 2020-21 school year begins, districts in the Mahoning Valley have started to release their plans for restarting school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

We've compiled a list of the widely varying plans as outlined by the schools, and will continue to update it as schools release their plans.

The plans below are tentative and may be adjusted as conditions in the area and state change. Decision-makers are also waiting on direction from Gov. Mike DeWine, who has hinted at releasing a more detailed plan for school reopenings

During a state briefing, DeWine was asked if he will restrict which counties can open schools based on their coronavirus case numbers. “There’s not enough data yet to make any kind of call like that,” he said.

So the state's plans for school reopenings remains unknown, except when it comes to money.

Despite $11.6 million in state cuts that Mahoning Valley public school districts were forced to make this year to help balance the state budget, the vast majority of traditional school districts in the Valley are expected to see a net operating surplus after two infusions of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funding.

Though Gov. Mike DeWine in May announced $300 million in K-12 foundation payments statewide, $440 million in federal relief funding was set aside for Ohio schools and the Ohio Controlling Board in July authorized an additional $100 million in CARES Act funding for Ohio schools.

Valley schools are expected to see nearly $26 million in those federal relief funds, according to estimates and funding formula simulations found on the Ohio School Boards Association website.

You can see the full funding breakdown below, including the net adjustment to district revenues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. To view a full-size version, click the link in the upper right:

* Note: All teachers and staff will be required to wear masks by state mandate

Mahoning County

Austintown Fitch 

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: in-person instruction, remote learning guided by a teacher or self-paced remote learning

Details: Students' temperatures will be taken at school each day. Desk barriers will be installed for each students. The district has hired 12 permanent substitute teachers to limit the risk posed by substitutes working in multiple districts. The district has not decided which age groups will be required to wear masks. 

Boardman Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 14

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents will be expected to screen students at home before school. Masks must be worn when social distancing is not possible and when students work in small groups. Cleaning supplies will be provided to every room. 

Deadlines: Parents must register students for the remote option by Aug. 7

Canfield Local Schools

First day of school: Grades 5-12 begin Sept. 8; K-4 begins on Sept. 10

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents will be expected to conduct symptom checks on students each day. Students will be expected to social distance. Students in grades K-4 will remain in the same classrooms, with teachers rotating. Face coverings are required for students in grades K-8 on buses, in hallways and in the classroom. Face coverings will be required for high school students on buses and while in the school building. 

Deadlines: In-person registration for remote learning will take place Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. at Canfield High School.

Campbell Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Students' temperatures will be taken upon arrival at school each day. Students are required to wear masks on buses and during transitions between classes. Masks are not required while students are seated in the classroom and socially distanced.

Cardinal Mooney High School

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning. Families are asked to commit to one or the other for the semester. Students receiving instruction virtually may not be eligible for extracurricular activities. The school will consider a hybrid model if recommended by state health officials.

Details: Students who drive and park at school and their passengers will enter the gym doors and undergo wellness checks. Students who are bussed or dropped off will enter the main doors and undergo wellness checks. Each student will receive a mask that must be worn except during meals and physical education. Each student will receive a Google Chromebook that can be used for in-person classes, and if instruction eventually switches to online. Tuition and payment options will remain the same this year.

Jackson-Milton Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 9 

Options: In-person or online

Details: Online classes will have a web-based curriculum and Zoom to classrooms at Jackson-Milton. If the county reaches a level 4 according to the scale by the Ohio Department of Health, school will be moved to remote learning. Students will be required to wear masks throughout the day and have their temperatures checked when arriving at school. Students must wear a mask and will have assigned seats on buses. 

Lowellville Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31 

Options: Remote learning

Details: The school year will be remote for the first nine weeks. All students will follow a modified daily schedule of assigned classes. Classes will be structured live lessons with teachers through Zoom or Google Classroom with additional support offered on Wednesday. Some lessons will be a whole class while others will be for small groups of students. 

Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Students in upper elementary and adolescent classes will be required to wear masks. The school has purchased sanitizing stations and is creating smaller class sizes to minimize the risk of spread. 

Poland Local Schools 

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: All students and staff will be expected to wear masks or face coverings. Parents will be expected to conduct home health screenings before school and must sign a waiver agreeing not to send a child to school who is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Students' temperatures will be taken each day upon entering the building. High touch areas will be cleaned frequently. Signs to encourage social distancing and hand-washing will be put up throughout school buildings. The district has also installed new air filters. 

Sebring Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Students' temperatures will be checked upon arrival. Desk shields will be installed. Students are expected to social distance. Face coverings should be worn by all students in the classroom and in other shared spaces to begin the school year. One reusable face mask will be provided to each student and staff member on the first day of school. Sanitation stations have been placed throughout the building. High touch areas will be cleaned regularly.

South Range Local Schools 

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents will be responsible for checking child's temperature daily. Guidance on mask-wearing will be provided when the plan is finalized. Students participating in remote learning will be provided a Chromebook if they don't have a laptop at home.

Struthers City Schools 

First day of school: Aug. 24

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents will be expected to conduct health screenings before school. Students will have their temperatures taken when they arrive at school. Desk shields have been installed. All students will receive a Chromebook. Students in kindergarten through second grade will be expected to wear masks when entering and exiting the building and during transitions between classes. Students in grades 3-12 will be expected to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, in the hallways and in the classrooms.  

Ursuline High School

First day of school: Aug. 27

Options: In-person instruction

Details: The school will take temperatures of the students as they enter the building each day. Following the temperature check, each student will be encouraged to use the hand sanitizer station located at each entrance. All students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks while at school. Teachers will sanitize desks and other high-touch areas between every class. Janitorial staff will sanitize hallways, stairwells, and high touch areas during each class. Restrooms will be cleaned during each class. The building will have an outside vendor complete a "deep clean" prior to the start of school and on a regular basis once school is in session. Water fountains and vending machines have been turned off.

Valley Christian Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: Online or remote learning

Details: Option 1 will allow students to work online at home for the first semester. Option 2 is a phased approach to bring all students back to school. Phase 1 will start school as completely remote at the beginning of the year. Phase 2 will bring small groups of the most at-risk students to return to campus in groups of five or fewer. Phase 3 will be a hybrid model that will divide students into two groups that attend school two days of the week. Phase 4 is full day in-person instruction. The schools will follow health and safety guidelines of the state and county to determine the best time to change phases

West Branch Local Schools 

First day of school: Sept. 9

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning; the district may adopt a hybrid model if local conditions change

Details: Staff will be required to wear face masks. Parents should check students' temperatures each day. Students' temperatures will be taken each morning. All students will be required to wear masks on the bus. Students in grades 3-12 will be required to wear masks. 

Western Reserve Local Schools 

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Students will have their temperatures taken when they arrive at school each day. Students will be expected to social distance, and barriers will be provided if social distancing is not possible. Students will be required to wear masks or face shield while riding the bus, when entering and exiting the building, in hallways and while moving frequently in the classroom. Students will have assigned seats on buses. Staff will be required to wear masks at all times, except when alone. 

Youngstown City Schools 

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: Remote learning

Details: All students will be provided a digital device and given internet access if needed. Families will be able to pick up district-issued Chromebooks and iPads Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Classes could be augmented to hybrid or in-person learning later in the 2020-2021 school year.

Trumbull County

Bloomfield-Mespo Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 27

Options: Hybrid model or remote learning; students will be divided into two groups. Group A will be in the building on Mondays and Thursdays. Group B will be in the building on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used for cleaning. 

Details: All students will receive a Chromebook. Students must wear face coverings on the bus and in the building when social distancing is not possible. 

Bristol Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 26

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents will be expected to screen students daily for COVID-19 symptoms. Students' temperatures will be taken upon arrival. Staff will be required to wear face coverings at all times. Students will be required to wear face coverings on the bus and throughout the school day. Social distancing will be promoted in classrooms through smaller class sizes. The district will enact enhanced cleaning procedures. The district has ordered Chromebooks for students without a computer at home.  

Brookfield Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 27

Options: Hybrid learning

Details: The hybrid plan would create two cohorts of students split into groups A and B. On Tuesday and Thursday, group A would have in-person classes and group B would be at home and online. On Wednesday and Friday, group B would be taught in-person and group A would be taught online at home. Monday will be for staff only to prepare Google classrooms and have office hours. School days will be 30 minutes shorter. Social distancing will be maintained in each classroom, and hand sanitizer will be at each entrance and classroom. Face coverings will need to be worn in transition areas of the school and on buses.

Girard City Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24

Options: Hybrid or e-learning model

Details: Students will be divided into two groups. Each group will receive two days of in-person instruction and learn remotely via Google Classroom the other three days. Students K-12 will be required to wear a mask, practice social distancing and have constant assessment for COVID-19 symptoms. E-learning will be full remote online learning through Edgenuity. Both choices are a semester commitment for students.

Howland City Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: Hybrid learning or remote learning

Details: Students will be divided into two cohorts. Cohort A will attend school Mondays and Thursdays each. Cohort B will attend school on Tuesdays and Fridays. Students will be expected to social distance when possible and wear masks on buses, when entering or exiting the building and in the hallways.

Deadlines: Howland Local Schools has extended its deadline for the full-time online remote learning program to Aug. 17.  Families will have until then to make their final decision regarding the online learning program.

Hubbard Exempted Village Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31 

Options: In-person instruction, hybrid plan or remote learning 

Details: Parents will be expected to conduct home health assessments each day before school. Face masks are required for students in grades 3-12. Masks are recommended for younger students. Cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer will be available. Students will be expected to social distance when possible.

Deadlines: Parents who want to enroll children in remote learning should contact the main office of their child's building by Aug. 7.

LaBrae Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31 

Options: As of Aug. 1, the school district plans to have students return under a blended learning plan. 

Details: Students will be divided into scarlet and gray cohorts. The scarlet cohort will attend school Monday and Wednesday, and the gray cohort will attend school Tuesday and Thursday. The cohorts will alternate Fridays going to school in-person. Students will remote learning with Google Classroom on days their cohort is not in school. Masks are required for all students, teachers and staff.

Lakeview Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 17 

Options: Hybrid model; Grades K-4 will have a half-day of academic instruction with half a day of childcare. For grades 5-12, there are two days on in-person instruction and three days of online instruction. The students will be divided in two groups with one group coming for in-person learning on Monday and Wednesday and the other on Tuesday and Thursday.

Details: Masks will be required for all students. Middle and elementary students will be put into small groups of 10-12 students and not switch classrooms during the day. High school students will have one-way hallways to change classrooms. Desks will be cleaned in between classes along with commonly touched surfaces. At night, the cleaning crew will clean all surfaces every day. 

Liberty Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: Blended or remote learning

Details: Blended learning will have students attend school on campus and be divided into two groups. The maroon group will attend school Monday and Tuesday with remote learning on Wednesday to Friday. The gold group will attend school Thursday and Friday with remote learning Monday to Wednesday. Wednesday will be used to deep clean the school. Remote learning will be five days a week with an online curriculum with virtual monitoring and support by certified staff. Students can only change learning options at the end of a quarter.

Lordstown Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: Parents are asked to commit for nine weeks to Plan 1 (in-person schooling) or Plan 2 (online schooling) for their children.

Details: Plan 1 will have students learning in-person with a regular schedule of classes. Students will be provided with face shields and have to wear masks throughout the day. Students and staff will have their temperature taken as they enter school, and students will wipe desks before each class. Plan 2 will allow for online learning for parents who do not want their child to return to school in person. A Chromebook and internet access will be provided, if necessary. Students will be monitored that they are completing their schoolwork and will have to participate in live or recorded instruction.

Maplewood Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24 

Options: Depending on the grade level, students will have in-person learning, hybrid learning or online learning. 

Details: Kindergarten will be divided into two groups. Group A will be in-person Monday and Thursday, and group B will be in-person Tuesday and Friday. Groups will alternate Wednesdays being at school. Grades 1-6 will have in-person learning at 100% capacity for Monday-Friday. Classrooms have been assigned and arranged to allow for social distancing. Grades 7-12 will be divided into cohorts A and B. Cohort A will be in-person Monday and Thursday, and cohort B will be Tuesday and Friday. The cohorts will alternate Wednesdays. The days the cohorts are not in school, students will complete assignments through Google Classroom. Students can also choose to have online schooling only but have to do it for the entire first semester.

Mathews Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 2

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Students will be required to wear a mask while walking around school and when social distancing cannot be maintained. Students K-6 will remain in their classrooms, and teachers will switch classrooms for instruction. Grade 7-12 will continue to follow a bell schedule and switch classes with a limited number of students in the hallway at a time.

McDonald Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24

Options: Hybrid. McDonald High School students will be divided into two cohorts  — A and B. Cohort A will attend school face-to-face Monday and Tuesday and every other Wednesday. Cohort B will attend school face-to-face Thursday and Friday and opposite Wednesday of cohort A. The days the cohort is not in school, they will attend classes online and/or complete assignments virtually.

McDonald Elementary School students will be divided into morning and afternoon groups. Students will remain in one classroom and will switch teachers throughout the day. Special classes like gym, art, music and technology will be on hold and be revisited as the year progresses.

Details: All students will be required to wear face masks while on school property. Families should consider purchasing a device such as a laptop for high school students. Devices will be available for students to sign out and use. 

Newton Falls Exempted Village Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: Grades K-5 can choose between in-person instruction or remote learning. Grades 6-12 will also have options of a hybrid model or remote learning. The hybrid model will have A and B groups. Group A will be in school Monday, Tuesday and every other Wednesday. Group B will be in school Thursday, Friday and every other Wednesday.

Details: Students will receive a Chromebook to use throughout the year and will be provided resources to get internet access.

Niles City Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31; Sept. 8 for kindergarten 

Options: Hybrid model. All students will be divided into two groups. Group A will be in the building on Mondays and Wednesdays. Group B will be in the building on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Details: Students will be expected to social distance. All students are required to wear face coverings on the bus and at other times throughout the school day. 

Deadlines: Families who do not think their child should return to school using the hybrid model should contact their child's school building as soon as possible. 

Southington Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Parents are encouraged to do health screenings at home. Students' temperatures will be taken upon arrival. Facial coverings will be required on the school bus and at all times except when in the classroom where social distancing will occur.

Columbiana County

The Columbiana County Educational Service Center worked with health and school district officials in the county on a 14-page plan that all public school districts in the county will use as a model for the new school year, which was released Tuesday, superintendents told Mahoning Matters.

Though districts are able to set their own requirements, the countywide plan calls for each district to work with local health departments and district families throughout the reopening process and provide their own face coverings and social distancing guidelines based on classroom sizes and building operations.

The plan also accounts for Columbiana County's position in the state's four-tiered Public Health Advisory System. In Level 1 "yellow" phase and Level 2 "orange" phase, traditional, in-person learning remains in option. At Level 3 "red" phase, however, county schools will be expected to be more flexible with traditional learning or rely more on remote or online learning. At the final, Level 4 "purple" phase, learning will be remote or online-only, according to the plan.

Face coverings will be required for all staff and students aged 2 and older, with certain exceptions, to align with the statewide mask mandate for students. The county plan, which can be overridden by new state directives, initially accounted for some "flexibility" in that rule, based on state recommendations, while the county is in the "yellow" and "orange" phases.

Beaver Local Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8 

Options: In-person or online

Details: Students will return to traditional face-to-face learning five days a week. The district has three other plans for hybrid and remote learning if state or local guidelines change. Students can also choose to do remote learning through Jefferson Virtual Learning Academy.

Columbiana Exempted Village Schools

First day of school: Aug. 25 for students; Aug. 21 for staff

Options: In-person instruction or remote instruction while in yellow and orange alert phases; Hybrid model in red alert phase; Remote instruction only in purple alert phase

Details: The majority of district families have responded to a survey on their instruction preferences. Up to three-quarters of students intend to return to in-person instruction, Superintendent Don Mook said.
Columbiana High School is implementing a block schedule "to limit the number of hallway passes we'll have," Mook said — and hallways will be one-way. The district has also purchased infrared temperature scanners which are remotely operated for school entrances, hand sanitizer stations "in every corner of every hallway" and handwashing stations in common areas, Mook said.
Mook encouraged parents who suspect their students are exhibiting symptoms of any illness keep them home. Though Mook said he feels school attendance is "always critical" attendance rules will be more flexible this year.

Deadlines: Administrators at each school are expected to soon send out information specific to their buildings.
The district plans to use its app for parents, titled "Columbiana Clippers," to push the latest informaiton regarding the school year. It's available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Crestview Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 26

Options: In-person instruction five days a week or remote instruction

Details: The majority of district families have responded to a survey on their instruction preferences. About three-quarters of students intend to return to in-person instruction, Superintendent Matthew Manley said. Manley said the district expects parents of students returning to the classroom to monitor them for illness symptoms daily. "If there's any chance they're sick, keep them home," he said.
As Columbiana County's safety plan accounts for the outbreak alert level reported by the state, Manley said parents should expect a "fluid" school year, in which instruction may have to pivot back to remote instruction only if the county's alert level turns red or purple.
The district has hired additional custodians to focus on sanitizing surfaces, installed temperature scanners in certain hallways which are operated remotely and installed new handwashing stations so students "can wash hands pretty much anywhere."

Deadlines: The district this week began scheduling meetings with parents of students who intend to do remote instruction. Open houses are only being done for students who are new to their school building, and families will be scheduled on Aug. 20 for staffered tours. Teachers will also be available for virtual meetings with families.

East Liverpool City Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person or online instruction

Details: Students can choose to return in-person for school five days a week. Classrooms will be modified to follow federal, state and local health department guidelines. All students and staff will have daily temperature checks and wear face masks. Students that choose online schooling will attend Potter Kiln Academy with an online learning curriculum. It will have a combination of live and self-guided completion.

Leetonia Exempted Village Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24, which was pushed back from Aug. 19

Options: Hybrid model. From Aug. 24 to Sept. 4: Two groups of students will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Beginning Sept. 8: The two groups will be merged in school.

Details: Superintendent Dennis Dunham said parents can expect the remote learning process to be "very different" than last year's.

Deadlines: This week, parents should expect to receive a survey on whether they plan for their student to learn at school or at home, which they are asked to return using the self-addressed, stamped envelope inside. A previous survey did not yield many results, Dunham said, though that information is vital to the district's planning.

Lisbon Exempted Village Schools

First day of school: Aug. 24

Options: In-person instruction or remote learning

Details: Superintendent Joseph Siefke said parents can expect this year's remote instruction process to be "more seamless, easier, more productive and easier for everyone to understand." He said though teachers thrust into the system after schools closed did the best they could, the effort fell short and was hard on teachers, the parents and, ultimately, the students.

For families opting into in-person instruction: school buses will now be offloading one student at a time. Those students will have temperatures taken with a remote-operated, touchless device at the front entrance, Siefke said. Each bus will be sanitized with a sterlizing "fog" after each trip.

Deadlines: The district has published its four-question reopening survey for parents online. "We really need to start gathering numbers on what that's going to look like," Siefke said.

Salem City Schools

First day of school: Sept. 8

Options: In-person or remote learning

Details: Students can choose to return in-person to school for five days a week. Students must wear their mask in the building and will have their temperature checked when entering the building. Students will be able to pick up Chromebooks and for orientation on Sept. 2 for remote learning. Students will be required to log into class daily and participate in class activities on Google Classroom.

Southern Local School District

First day of school: Sept. 8 

Options: In-person or online

Details: Students can attend school during normal hours and days. Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings throughout the day. Guidelines and safety protocols may be adjusted based on CDC, state and local guidelines. Online learning will take place through Virtual Learning Academy, Google Classroom and other online resources. Students will receive a Chromebook for online learning and be expected to attend class Monday to Friday. 

United Local Schools

First day of school: Aug. 31

Options: Hybrid or remote learning

Details: Students will be divided into blue and gold teams. Students with last name A-K are blue group, and students with last name L-Z are gold group. Students will follow the hybrid school for as long as necessary until it is determined safe to return five days a week.  Students and staff will wear masks during the day. Students can choose remote learning for the first nine weeks that will be taken through Eagle’s Nest Academy. 





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