(The Center Square) – The Ohio Education Association (OEA) wants schools in counties with higher cases of COVID-19 to start the year with remote learning and maintain that method for as long as needed.
“Given the dangers posed by the spread of COVID-19, however, OEA believes that reopening for in-person instruction prematurely poses unacceptable risks to the lives and health of students, adults who work in schools, and the people they care for,” the OEA Board of Directors said in a statement.
The association pointed to a mid-July poll of its members that found 69 percent of education professionals in the state do not think schools can reopen safely in the fall.
“No education employee in any setting should be forced to choose between their livelihood and their health or safety,” the OEA Board of Directors said.
OEA said schools in a county that has been designated as Level 4 (purple) or Level 3 (red) should remain closed to in-person instruction.
On Tuesday, Ohio reported 86,497 “confirmed and probable” cases of COVID-19 and 3,382 “confirmed and probable” deaths from the virus, which originated in China.
“If we do what we need to do, we can start these numbers going the right direction,” Gov. Mike DeWine said during a Tuesday news conference. “We are at a crucial time, and these are tough decisions.”
Columbus City Schools announced their schools will use remote learning for the first quarter, which runs Sept. 8 through Oct. 27.
“I understand that this news of starting back in the fall with a fully virtual learning model will please many parents and families,” Columbus City Schools Superintendent/CEO Talisa Dixon said in a letter to families.
“I also know that many will not be pleased with the decision,” Dixon added. “However, ultimately, safety and health concerns led to a final decision that would keep all of us safe as we work collectively to lower the rate of COVID-19 infections.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging schools to open in the fall.
Long periods away from school, the AAP says, interrupts support services for children and often results in social isolation. These factors make it “difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation,” they add. “This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk.”
DeWine also announced that child care providers in the state “may return to their normal, statutory ratios and class sizes” starting Aug. 9. The governor also limited all fairs to junior fair events only beginning July 31.
“We’ve seen several fairs that have been doing an excellent job to keep fair-goers safe, yet other fairs have been connected to outbreaks; some have disregarded social distancing; and we’ve also seen a lack of enforcement of the statewide mask order. It’s just a real shame,” DeWine said in a news release.
“Because it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot have a regular, safe fair in the summer of 2020, I believe we must now scale fairs back,” DeWine said.