Local superintendents disagree with Ohio Education Association on pivot to online education


By Sam Shriver - sshriver@limanews.com



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Read more about the pandemic response at LimaOhio.com/tag/coronavirus.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Education Association is calling for state leaders and school districts across the state to immediately suspend all in-person instruction until Jan. 11.

The OEA asked districts to demonstrate their commitment to putting students first in their pandemic response by following a four-point plan that reflects the latest science and best practices for ensuring Ohio’s children receive a high-quality education in a safe environment. According to a news release, the OEA urged districts to stop in-person learning until a 14-day quarantine period after Christmas.

To restart after the reset period, schools should be required to obtain sign-off on the safety of their instructional model from their local health board. Schools that are unable to obtain sign-off must remain fully remote and shouldn’t hold extracurricular activities, according to the OEA proposal.

The OEA’s updated plan calls for local leaders to reprioritize education in their policies outside school settings to ensure schools can remain safely open and communities can continue to recover.

Finally, putting students first requires a commitment to fully providing resources needed to meet the needs of students, educators and the wider community until a vaccine is widely available.

Local educators aren’t necessarily sold on the plan.

“We continue to assess our situation, and we continue to communicate weekly with Allen County Health Department and medical professionals that serve our community,” said James Kanable, Shawnee schools superintendent. “We monitor our numbers each day and will continue to do so. We have seen success in our additional cleaning procedures and other precautions we continue to use and implement. To this end, … We have not seen indications in our students or staff that would lead to these type of actions. If we see changes that cause concern, we will consult with these same professionals and act accordingly with the information that presents itself at that time.”

Lima schools are doing what they can to keep their doors open.

“The Lima City Schools has worked very diligently to keep our students and staff safe during the COVID pandemic, and I can say that we have been successful,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools. “We work hand-in-hand with the Allen County Health Department and monitor cases very closely. … Currently, .0014% of our combined student and staff population has the virus. Our efforts in social distancing and keeping seating charts in classrooms, cafeterias and buses have kept the numbers of students needing to be quarantined down as well. We continue to deep clean, enforce the mask mandate and practice social distancing. We will continue to follow mandates put forth by our local health department and Governor, but we believe it is important for our students to remain in school. Our schools do much more than educate students. We feed, counsel, address health needs, keep students safe and much more. Our students are better when they are in school and unless mandated to close our doors, we believe we are handling the pandemic well and will remain open.

The same is true at Bath schools, its superintendent said.

We monitor student and staff absences every day as well as updating our COVID-19 dashboard showing the number of positive cases and quarantines from those positives. We continue to meet with the Allen County Health Department and discuss current issues and trends on a bi-weekly basis. Our students and staff have done a great job adhering to our guidelines in our opening plan,” said Rich Dackin, Bath schools superintendent. “We do not feel that there needs to be an ‘all or nothing’ policy with regards to moving all kids online. Each district, in cooperation with their county health department, should determine how and when to move to remote learning. We feel that schools are the safest place for kids.

Ottoville schools, at one point, had to go to virtual classes recently.

“I do not believe you can have a blanket policy for the entire state,” said Scott Mangas, Ottoville schools superintendent. “Different areas of the state have spiked at different times throughout this pandemic. We had 85 (65 in grades 6-12) students out either positive or quarantined on Nov. 12, 2020, so we went virtual with our grades 6-12 from Nov. 16th through to Dec. 4th. Today, Dec. 7, 2020, we are all back in the building, we have only four students out, all of which are contact traced to an adult outside of our building. If our numbers increase again, we will do the same. We will do what is safe for the students of Ottoville and as of right now, as I write this, the safest place for them is in our building. Every school set-up is different, therefore ONE policy may not be best for all.

“I think this process should follow the same principles the OEA espoused in their opinion (which I think was correct) about the Fair School Funding Plan, and that is that one size fits all solutions end up being a disaster. Our school district and county are wildly different than Franklin or Cuyahoga County, and there is almost as much percentage variation within our county districts as there is between Ottawa-Glandorf and some of the larger more urban/suburban districts.

Ottawa-Glandorf schools’ leader also said the district believes in local control.

“We are a reflection of our local communities, and each district needs to do what is best for their students, staff, schools and their community,” said Don Horstman, Ottawa-Glandorf schools superintendent. “One of the best things Gov. DeWine has done is to allow local schools to practice local control and work with local health departments to adapt our policies and procedures to what works best at our level. The last thing we need is a blanket reset/restart policy for all of the school districts in Ohio.”

Wapakoneta schools has been flexible during the pandemic, superintendent Aaron Rex said.

“Each of the school districts in our state has plans in place for their students and staff during this pandemic,” said Aaron Rex, superintendent for Wapakoneta schools. “For many that has been in-person learning five days a week, for some it has been a hybrid model, and for others it has been remote learning.”

“Schools have to determine what is best for their students, staff, and community. When communities see an increase in cases this will more than likely be reflected in the school. If this means that the school must adjust their plan then that should be up to the school board and the administration in that school district.”

“During the course of this year, we have done our best to have students in school five days a week. However, if there has been a spike in the number of students sick or quarantined, we have adjusted our plan,” Rex said. “I don’t see January or the remainder of the school year being treated any differently. I understand the OEA wants what is best for everyone in the schools, and that is our main goal as well.”

“I trust that schools and their leadership will work with their teachers to do the very best they can to be safe and educate their young people.”

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By Sam Shriver

sshriver@limanews.com

ONLY ON LIMAOHIO.COM

Read more about the pandemic response at LimaOhio.com/tag/coronavirus.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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