PUTNAM COUNTY — School districts across Ohio are trying to figure out how education might look come August. The state has given them few guidelines and several superintendents in Putnam County have written a letter to the governor to ask him to decide by July 1 how they should proceed.
“After witnessing all the traditional events and memories the Class of 2020 had taken from them through no fault of their own, we steadfastly believe that the students’ return to our respective buildings in August is ‘essential,’” the letter stated. “The decision on when and how we return to school in August must be left to the local school districts working in conjunction with their local health departments. We respectfully reject the one-size-fits-all approach as it pertains to students safely returning to their respective school buildings.
“In the interest of allowable time to adequately collaborate and prepare for students returning in mid-August, we also officially request that the decision to allow students to return to school be made on or about July 1. We are confident in the belief that we can partner with the Putnam County Health Department in that time frame to plan and implement the recommended health measures that will allow our schools to safely operate.”
The letter is signed by superintendents Nicholas Verhoff, of Columbus Grove schools, Danny Kissell, of Continental schools, Nick Langhals, of Jennings schools, Karl Lammers, of Kalida schools, Greg Williamson, of Leipsic schools, Kerry Johnson, of Miller City-New Cleveland schools, Don Horstman, of Ottawa-Glandorf schools, Scott Mangas, of Ottoville schools, R. Todd Schmutz, of Pandora Gilboa schools, and Jan Osborn, of the Putnam County ESC.
“We feel like we have not had a voice, like no one in Columbus is listening to those of us out here in the rural areas of Ohio,” said Horstman. “To me, there’s way too much emphasis on what the big urbans and the big suburbans around 270 want, and I think we need to have a plan put in place that is actually something we can accomplish.”
The superintendents met last week with the Putnam County Health Department to talk about this issue.
“We feel there’s going to be some changes between now and July 1. That we will come up with what we need to do to re-enter school, whether that be double bus routes, or extending our lunch periods and those types of things. It was a good conversation,” said Scott Mangas, superintendent of Ottoville schools.
What works for Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati might not be the best solution for this area.
“The governor obviously has a very difficult job as do our legislators in trying to keep everyone safe,” said Nick Verhoff, superintendent of Columbus Grove schools. “At the same time, it’s also difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all type approach to 610 school districts throughout the state that are very different just in their demographics and their makeup and also different parts of the state and with regards to the look at the population, population density as well. So that’s what we’re urging our legislators to look at, as we look at opening schools here this fall.”
Last week, state Sen. Matt Huffman co-sponsored legislation which would empower public and private schools to decide when they would open their buildings for the 2020-2021 school year.
“School superintendents and boards would still confer with state and local health departments, but the decision on when or if to open would be that of only the district,” Huffman said Friday.