ESC board discusses reopening challenges

By Braden Moles -

EATON — During the Eaton Community Schools Board of Education meeting on July 13, Superintendent Jeff Parker spoke about the challenges the district is facing in trying to reopen schools for the fall.

“We all have a million questions and as Matt [Robbins] and the administrators have been just working, thinking about planning, brainstorming, trying to plan…I don’t know, there’s so many uncertainties,” Parker said.

While there are many questions left to answer before Eaton’s scheduled start date of Aug. 19, Parker said that, in the meantime, the staff and the leaders in the community will have to just take these challenges one step at a time.

“As leaders, we’re going to have to look at this not as a nightmare,” he said. “We’re going to have to look at this as one minute at a time, one step at a time, and trying to look ahead and get through this because we know we’re going to get through this. We wake up from nightmares, right?”

While Parker said that they got through everything in the spring with in-person classes being canceled and were even able to have an in-person graduation, he also added that this upcoming school year will be the most significant challenge that anyone has faced as it relates to school.

“I’m certain everyone realizes the infinite uncertainties associated with the COVID-19, and the reopening of school is causing anxiousness to the point of extreme anxiety for some, stress, etc., for many, and for some others, they’re not concerned,” he said.

Parker acknowledged that as the school year approaches, many teachers and staff in various buildings are waiting for answers as to what the school year may look like.

“We know that we’re scheduled to start school in five or six weeks, and so for everyone that feels like, ‘Oh my gosh, we got to know.’ But it goes back to this situation and the uncertainties and the fluidness and all that,” he said. “We’ve got to be patient. As patient as we can be to try to work towards these things.”

Surveys had recently been sent out to parents of students at Eaton asking what their child’s plans are for the 2020-21 school year.

Of the 615 responses as of July 13, Parker said that 60 percent said they were planning on their children going to school no matter what. 25 percent said that their child would not return if face masks were required, while 15 percent said they would only send their children if face masks are required.

“Out of 615 responses – and I don’t have the exact numbers in front of you right now – that’s still 100 plus saying we’re not coming back if it’s required to wear masks,” he said. “I’m not making a statement on that. I’m just saying, that’s what it’s showing us.”

Parker ended his report with a message to the staff and the community to treat everyone with respect, professionalism and kindness as they prepare for what the next couple of months may hold.

“It will be very important to control the one thing we all can control, and that is our responses and our attitudes,” he said. “We will not agree with our colleagues on all aspects of this situation. We will not always agree with our administrators, and we will not agree 100 percent of the time with individuals outside our school community. When this is all said and done, we want to be stronger than we were prior to when the impacts of COVID-19 began.”

Before Parker spoke, he ceded the floor to Matt Robbins, Director of Operations for Eaton Community Schools, to discuss ways that the district is preparing for the return of students.

Sanitizing surfaces, whether it be in cafeterias, buses or in classrooms, will be a major emphasis for students and teachers once they can return.

“We’re pretty stocked up – my plans with hand sanitizer is to put hand sanitizer in every classroom,” Robbins said. “So we’ll have one in every classroom.”

Robbins then discussed how each school is increasing air filtration by using MERV 13 filters for high-efficiency air filtering.

“We’re trying to catch as much as we can and still be able to move air because, if it filters too much, we’re not going to be able to move air,” he said. “We have to move air.”

In other business:

The Eaton School Board of Education recognized KeAnthony Bales and Zachary Schmidt for their accomplishments during the 2019-20 wrestling season.

Bales earned an OHSAA Sectional Championship, was an SWBL League Runner Up and finished as an OHSAA District and State Qualifier.

Schmidt became SWBL and OHSAA Sectional Champion and was an OHSAA District and State Qualifier.

Calamity Day Alternative Make-up Plan

The ECS Board approved a resolution adopting a calamity day alternative make-up day for the 2020-21 school year.

Teachers have until Nov. 1 to develop lessons requiring an amount of time equal to or greater than three school days in the teacher’s class.

The teacher can then determine the order that the lessons are posted online and can update or replace them throughout the school year as needed.

If these lessons end up needing to be required, students will have two weeks to complete the lesson after they are posted. Students without computer access will be granted two weeks to complete the lessons once they can return to school.

Fall 2020 Sports Eligibility

A resolution was passed to “declare an emergency and temporarily suspend board policy regarding eligibility for interscholastic athletics for fall 2020 sports.”

The OHSAA had previously suspended academic eligibility requirements due to COVID-19, and the resolution by the ECS board was passed with a desire to align the district’s fall 2020 athletic eligibility requirements with the OHSAA’s.

The specific language being temporarily suspended reads as follows:

“In addition to the eligibility requirements established by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, to be eligible for any interscholastic extra-curricular activity, a student must have maintained at least a 2.0 grade-point average for the grading period prior to the grading period in which s/he wishes to participate.”

The next Eaton Community School Board of Education meeting will be held on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. at Hollingsworth East Elementary.

By Braden Moles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles