Coronavirus in Ohio: School officials ‘uncertain’ about fall semester plans

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City School Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon said uncertainty is now the greatest factor in trying to plan how to reopen for the next school year.

In written testimony to the Senate finance committee this week, the superintendent said it’s the uncertainty that keeps her awake at night — uncertainty about the educational program and uncertainty about what next year’s expenses and revenues will look like.

This is the time of year when school district leaders are typically mapping out plans for the next school year.

But there are so many unknowns – and the clock is ticking.

In a letter to state senators, Dixon posed a number of questions.

“Will all students and staff be required to wear face masks when they return? If so, what is our obligation to provide these masks?”

“If so,” she said, “the cost could reach millions of dollars for our district alone.”

Without answers yet, districts are starting to plan out multiple scenarios from classroom sizes to bus rides.

“If we’re having six feet social distancing in school, that means six feet social distancing on the bus likely, so we have a 60-foot school bus that’s going to be shrunk down to 10 students,” said Will Schwartz of the Ohio School Boards Associations.

And hand sanitizer – will districts have to place supplies at the entrance to each classroom? Dixon said for Columbus, the cost of that could easily reach millions of dollars.

Schwartz said more state and federal funding will be needed.

“We’re going to need additional resources to equip teachers and students to react to a new environment of learning and its incumbent upon us to do that all together,” he said.

School officials also said they will need flexibility to adapt at the local level. Senator Stephanie Kunze said there’s no disagreement about that.

“I think the state allowing local school boards to make the best determinations for the children in their districts in the Community and working in partnerships with parents is probably the key,” Kunze (R-Hilliard) said.

Kunze said what lawmakers heard from school officials is a need for clarity, flexibility, and simplicity. She hopes the state can deliver all of that by mid-July at the latest.

Dixon’s full written testimony can be found below.

APP USER: Click here to read the testimony.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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