CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio students could return to the classroom in August, going to school to two days in a week, supplemented with online learning, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.
“I think everyone would like to see schools back in session in August,” DeWine said in the statehouse news briefing. “How could they exist in the world where the coronavirus is still here? How could they get the social distancing? It’s very difficult.”
A task force of superintendents, principals and teachers is considering different options for the fall. One option is dividing students into two groups, sending one group to school for two days and the other on two separate days, so the school would have fewer students at a time.
For example, one group could go Monday-Tuesday and the other group Thurday-Friday, with Wednesday as a cleaning day.
No decision has been made, DeWine said. Other concerns include social distancing on school buses, for example. Lunch rooms and hallways during high school class changes have also been concerns, as have masks with small children.
“My recommendation to schools is to look at different options,” DeWine said. “What is unique to you?”
Most of the Northeast Ohio superintendents asked for comment on the plan said that the rotating schedule is one of the many options on the table for the fall. What happens will depend on how the pandemic progresses through the summer and what the state recommends.
Beachwood Heights Superintendent Robert Hardis wrote in an email that the 10-person limit on gatherings would need to be lifted before schools could implement a plan like DeWine referenced.
“Of course, we are also considering how we will handle passing time in hallways, lunchtime (and) busing,” he wrote. We know that protective measures or protocols will need to be implemented for students and staff using health checklists or screenings, as well as more aggressive cleaning and disinfecting than is typical.”
The focus right now is strengthening remote learning and incorporating feedback from parents and teachers.
For Parma Schools, a district made up of students from three different cities, priorities include streamlining the platforms teachers use for online education and making remote education more interactive, Superintendent Charles Smialek said.
“We’re trying to move from a mode of assigning work to providing instruction,” Smialek said.
In Shaker Heights, the district has luckily found it had enough devices to give to students who need them, and has also distributed internet hot-spots, Superintendent David Glasner said.
“Obviously given the uncertainty around next year, that’s something we anticipate continuing. I think it’s a question moving forward, even when we return to normal, what kind of access to devices and Internet we expect to have for our students moving forward.
I think the silver lining here is that we’ve seen the importance of accessibility and how much our students and teachers can do in remote settings.”
Several school districts have shifted the calendar slightly to allow time for faculty to work on online planning for the fall, including Lakewood, Parma and Shaker Heights.
Those shifts are generally for a few days, but Revere Local Schools, in northwest Summit County, cut its school year 13 days short, based on feedback from parents regarding the stress of online learning.