ELIDA — With cases of COVID-19 increasing every day in the region, many parents are considering keeping their children at home instead of sending them to school.
Some schools have already started signing up students for the online option.
Earlier this week, the Ohio Education Association called for any school or campus building located in a county designated as Level 4 (purple) or Level 3 (red) to remain closed to in-person instruction. Allen and Hardin counties are currently listed as Level 3 under the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
Also this week, the largest public school district in the state, Columbus City Schools, announced its schools will start entirely online and lasting until at least Oct. 27.
Melissa Karcz is one of those parents who wants her freshman to do her studies online but is disappointed with the course offerings at Elida schools.
“My daughter signed up to take all advanced classes (which aren’t offered online now). All students should be given the same learning opportunities. No parent should have to choose between their child’s health and safety and their education,” Karcz said.
She believes there is a viable solution.
“A simple solution would be, with today’s technology, to Zoom into the advanced class live. My daughter wants to earn her Honors Diploma,” Karcz said.
Karcz is against children wearing masks in class, despite a statewide mandate for children over the age of 10, and she wrote to Elida Superintendent Joel Mengerink about her concerns.
“I have read so many articles and seen so many videos from doctors and scientists saying masks are not healthy,” Karcz said. “Masks reduce your oxygen level and weaken your immune system. I am also concerned for children that have asthma, anxiety and many other health conditions where they should not be masked. I have read articles where children are passing out.”
Mengerink says offering the advanced courses online isn’t a viable solution.
“Those students wanting advanced or AP classes remotely make up less than 5% of course requests. Online advanced courses do not offer the same type of rigor and accountability as in-person classes,” Mengerink said. “At this point, we would need to hire six new teachers to offer all of our advanced courses online remotely. That just is not fiscally possible when the district was recently cut $480,000, and we are going to be operating in the red this year, all the while still waiting to hear what kind of a funding cut we are going to take from the government.”
Some parents backed an online petition drive on Change.org to push back the start of Elida schools to the normal start time to work some of these issues out. Right now school is scheduled to start Aug. 11, two weeks earlier than normal.
The petition, “Don’t Open Elida Local Schools Until It’s Safe,” was started by 18-year-old Alison Campbell, a Type 1 diabetic who is a senior at Elida High School. So far, she’s gathered more than 390 signatures which she hopes to present to the Elida school board at its Aug. 4 meeting.
The deadline to sign up for online schooling at Elida is Aug. 3.
“While students have the option to do online schooling, the curriculum will be limited,” Campbell stated. “Advanced courses and AP courses cannot be taken online. Elective courses can also not be taken online. This causes a student to have to choose between their own health or the education they deserve, a decision no one should have to make.”
Mengerink was aware of the petition drive.
“Petitions are a way for people to voice concerns and to try to force change, even though absolutely anyone can sign them. You have to take those as another piece of information,” Mengerink said. “We know there are going to be people that aren’t satisfied with any plans that are put out there right now. I have also received a number of emails in the last two days that contradict the petition to the tune of 85% favoring starting on time – and I know these people are from our district. It is both concerning and disturbing though that we have a board member who is helping to circulate a petition (that can be signed by anyone) and create fear among community members.”
All of the area school districts are offering some kind of online option, some more comprehensive than others.
Over in Wapakoneta, a few parents have requested the online curriculum for their children.
“Our parents have until Aug. 3 to choose the online option,” said Aaron Rex, superintendent of Wapakoneta schools. “Right now we are at around 130 who have shown interest. We have approximately 3,100 students in our district, so that is around 4% of our kids. We have traditionally only offered this option for students in grades 8 through 12, so having our younger students enrolled will be new for the school and our parents.”
Unlike Elida schools, Wapakoneta is offering advanced classes.
“At the elementary level, the courses will be generally the same as they would be for our youngest students. It is difficult to do ‘specials’ through online learning such as art, physical education, music, and so on,” Rex said. “At the middle school, they will have a few more choices, and at the high school, there is a broad range of curriculum. This would include foreign languages and advanced courses.”
Signup for online classes has yet to begin at Allen East schools.
“We have had 15 inquiries from parents wanting an online option this year instead of having face-to-face instruction,” said Mel Rentschler, superintendent of Allen East schools. “We will not officially begin to sign up students until Aug. 3 when the principals return to work. I am anticipating as Allen East gets closer to the start of the school year, Aug. 31, more parents will explore an online option for their children.”
Like Wapakoneta, Allen East is looking at extensive online course offerings.
“Allen East has had a very robust digital academy for the past seven years, so it is not a new option for our students. Students in the past have taken online courses for a number of reasons. This year it will be the fear of contracting COVID-19 that will cause some students to take online courses,” Rentschler said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.