Published Monday, June 1, 2020
By Sarah Fowler, State School Board Member
Letter to: Governor DeWine and Members of the General Assembly
I am writing today to share my thoughts on reopening Ohio’s schools in the fall. As an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, representing over one million people in northeast Ohio, I have received countless emails and phone calls from constituents over the past two weeks regarding Ohio’s Reset, Restart Guidance compiling current recommendations and requirements from the Center for Disease Control and Ohio Department of Health.
Some families are concerned that the risk of infection will be too large to mitigate, even with masks, social distancing, and extra sanitizing. Other families acknowledge the decisive actions of this spring but are eager to regain stability, lost education opportunities, and a sense of normalcy for their children. In both cases, families need flexibility to decide what works best for them as they seek a robust education experience for their children.
Proposals are being floated for encapsulating each child’s work space in plexiglass, spacing students 6′ apart, and attending school in person just two days per week. As every parent can attest, children have a way of sharing germs without even trying! Just by gathering once per week, the class will be required to walk through common areas, share restrooms, and breathe in the same room.
We do not know that these drastic social distancing steps will result in any fewer infections, but we do know that they create a feeling of isolation and may create additional mental and emotional health concerns.
It is important to note that unless immune compromised, children represent the least vulnerable age category if they contract the COVID-19 virus. However, they may easily transmit the infection to caregivers who are more vulnerable.
Masks are being proposed as a solution, however, especially in the elementary grades, facial expressions are a key aspect of learning and human development. Multiple school psychologists have expressed concerns that there could be dangerous implications for student’s emotional health and psychological development if teachers and students (especially elementary age and those with special needs) are required to wear masks to attend school.
Thankfully, the virus did not spread as projected in Ohio over the past two months. Ohioans have worked hard to “flatten the curve” and follow guidelines to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. We have been successful. Now, as Ohio reopens businesses and parents are asked to return to work environments other than their homes, we need to take a serious look at the proposals coming from the Department of Health regarding the future of education.
Local district’s hands are currently tied by the Governor’s closure of Ohio schools. I am writing to request ALL schools (public, private, religious, tech and trade schools, etc) be permitted to fully open on the regular schedule in the fall. While state and federal health officials felt the need to act quickly this spring to reduce infections and prevent a projected deadly outbreak of Covid-19, we now have better testing and data which do not support keeping Ohio’s schools closed or the implementation of draconian measures which may result in severe behavioral, emotional, and educational consequences for hundreds of thousands of students in Ohio.
Kids will be kids! We need to trust parents to make decisions about WHERE their children are educated and WHAT measures they will utilize for personal and familial protection, in consultation with their personal health care provider. We need to trust our locally elected school board members and superintendents to make thoughtful decisions to protect the health of each school community.
Districts, tech and trade schools, online, private, religious, and home schools, should be given flexibility from the state and federal governments to continue offering Ohio students educational opportunities with resourcefulness, creativity, and perseverance.
Children are not one-size-fits-all, education is not one-size-fits-all, and viruses are not one-size-fits-all either. It is time to reevaluate the data on an individual basis and move forward by reopening ALL of Ohio’s schools to educate, to learn, and to build into our future.
Sarah Fowler Arthur
Ohio State Board of Education – District 7
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,
Just wondering if we will be receiving a refund/credit on our real estate taxes?
Since about 75% of my real estate taxes goes to the local school system, would we be getting a credit for the 3 months that the school is closed because of the pandemic? They should not need all that money since no one is attending… I feel we should get at least 1/4 refunded.