Ohio and the 49 other states are slowly opening up, trying to avoid Grand Canyon-size potholes and navigating uncertainties about basic health issues and protections. We are so fortunate to have a governor who was proactive, sensible and, frankly, way ahead of the pack in protecting citizens. But we recently read a survey that frankly has us concerned. It portends a potentially explosive reaction to school reopening plans.
According to a story in the Dayton Daily News, the Ohio Parent Teacher Association conducted a mid-May survey aimed at Ohio K-12 school parents. The survey also included some general public responses. It showed a dramatically divided citizenry that we can only assume (and we hope we are wrong) differences of opinion clearly reflecting the political divide currently ripping this country apart.
The survey asked people whether they would send their children back to school in the fall if the buildings reopened. About 60% of the 14,448 respondents said yes, 11% said no, and 29% said they were unsure. But when the question was reworded just a bit to ask if parents would send their children back to school if they were required to wear a mask, only 32% said yes (almost half of the original “yes” responses), with 40% saying no, and 28% unsure.
The state has put together a 12-page draft of how schools may approach opening schools in a healthy and safe manner. The “Reset & Restart Planning Guide” recommends schools consider health and safety, educational plans, social-emotional health concerns and operational issues such as busing, food service and extracurriculars. The authors worked with the Ohio Department of Health in putting together tentative guidelines, including addressing distance learning where possible. For in-school education, the report advises physical distancing, face masks, frequent cleaning and sanitizing, and taking the temperatures of students and staff each day before school.
Chapman is quoted in the story as saying she knows there are many questions when it comes to how schools would handle social distancing in classrooms, hallways, buses, playgrounds and cafeterias. She noted that any talk about half days or alternating days is a huge concern for parents. “There are very legitimate concerns, especially for working parents, as child-care scheduling is a big issue,” she is quoted as saying.
What a conundrum. How do we keep our children safe without scaring them? How do we protect teachers and staff? How do we provide our children with a quality education? So many questions. So few easy answers.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride, folks.