By Anne Chlovechok
Governor Mike DeWine announced today that after extensive consultation with school administrators, teachers and parents, the decision has been made that Ohio children in grades K-12 will not return physically to school this school year, but will finish out the year remotely.
The governor cited a number of reasons for the decision. Among these were that while numbers in Ohio have been plateauing recently, the virus continues and remains dangerous. “The situation is fluid,” he said, adding that everyone will feel better when numbers start to go down.
He also cited the importance of continuity in education. He reported that a number of educators had expressed the opinion that with a relatively short time left in the school year, to go back now is not a good idea, even if the health situation were resolved, which, he noted, it is not.
He also expressed concern for the safety of students and the community at large, acknowledging that while the fatality rate is low among young people, they are carriers, and the concern remains that when large numbers of people get together, they will then carry the virus home to more vulnerable populations.
“This is the reason we shut down the schools in the first place,” he reminded his listeners.
As for what might happen in the fall, that remains up in the air. “Moving forward, we’ve made no decision about the fall,” the governor said. “We need to see where we’re going. People are anxious about a decision about fall, but we are not in a position to make that decision.”
He said that school districts are preparing for the fall, thinking about how they will handle social distancing if they are back in school. “I applaud them for that,” DeWine said. “I encourage you to continue to plan. We’ll work closely through the Ohio Department of Education. As we k now more and can share more about social distancing, we’ll make that information available.”
The governor said one option he’s discussed with a number of superintendents from around Ohio is the possibility of having a blended system this fall, with some distance learning and some in-person learning.
“It’s just a possibility. Each district will be different,” he said. “We’re going to allow a great deal of flexibility within broader parameters to ensure safety for young people.
The governor also expressed concern for the safety of some of Ohio’s children, specifically those with special developmental needs, those with health challenges, and those without a supportive home life.
“A concern I have is the safety of kids when they can’t be in school,” he said. “Teachers are doing an amazing job, making the best of a difficult situation. He is also concerned about students with little or no access to good internet around Ohio.
So, for now, while students will continue to work from home for the next few weeks, what will happen this fall remains unknown. More on this when it is available.