CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Plans for K-12 students in Ohio to return to classrooms this fall could include children going to school on alternating days, sitting in classes with about half their classmates, and continuing with some remote learning as the state sees how the coronavirus pandemic continues to play out.
Those are just some of the takeaways from a media briefing conducted by members of the “Ohio 8,” a coalition of the state’s eight largest urban school districts.
The districts want $330 million in emergency federal aid distributed as it usually is, indexed to federal poverty guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Education has issued a non-binding “guidance” to the state to divide the money evenly among all Ohio students, including those in wealthier districts.
“We’re advocating for the money to be distributed as Congress intended,” says Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Gordon says another huge problem is that many students, 40 percent in Cleveland, do not have reliable internet service.
While districts are distributing hot-spots and computers as short-term measures, they want the state to pump money into improving connectivity for both urban and rural districts, starting with $4 million that Gov. Mike DeWine has received in discretionary federal aid.
Gordon estimates that just to wire Cleveland properly would cost about $40 million.
Akron Public School Superintendent David James said many districts are considering an “alternating days” approach.
Gov. Mike DeWine hinted several weeks ago that “blended” learning — both at-home and at school — might be part of the approach this fall.
That would be an effort to have fewer students in a school at once, and continue social distancing, while bringing students back to school for at least part of the week.
Kevin Dalton, head of the Toledo Teachers Federation, said that “from a teacher’s perspective”, in-person learning helps with making connections to students, and helps with the teaching process.
School districts may also face unanticipated expenses compared to last year.
In Akron, Superintendent James says hand sanitizer could cost the district $3-4 million this year, and masks may cost an additional $2 million.
The “Ohio 8” say the challenges presented to educators by the pandemic are “unprecedented.”