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It’s time our children get back to school

I don’t always agree with our governor, but on at least one very important issue, I do.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and I are in complete agreement that kids need to get back to school.

I say this just as my son, a senior in high school, is pressing me and my husband to allow him to change his education plan from in-class learning to remote learning, but it’s not because of health concerns. Rather, I suspect it’s so he can sleep later.

Like any parent, we know our son’s personality and habits well, and we believe strongly he’ll learn better in the school building — eyeball-to-eyeball with his teachers keeping him on his toes.

Not unlike many, many parents, my husband and I work — a lot. Kids like to sleep. They procrastinate. They goof off. My kid could spend hours binge-watching shows on Hulu or stupid videos on TikTok. Leaving him home alone all day to “study” — well, it’s just not a good combination, to say the least.

Despite those very strong feelings, we are blessed to have the option. Our school district has opted for a hybrid plan of sorts, offering students and parents options about whether their children go to school in person or learn online from home.

Unfortunately, not all families have that option.

Nowadays, DeWine is so adamant to get kids back in school buildings that he is threatening to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from school employees if their students don’t soon get back to their buildings.

So, in order for Ohio school teachers and employees to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, Ohio schools must produce plans for students to return to in-person learning no later than March 1.

DeWine said district superintendents will be contacted individually to provide staff information, coupled with plans for reopening.

So far, only a few local school districts in Trumbull and Mahoning counties have not returned to their buildings.

For instance, Girard Superintendent Bryan O’Hara recently told our education reporter that Girard School District, which has been operating under five-day remote learning since school reopened after summer break, is finally bringing students back to the buildings under a limited hybrid plan.

Warren schools are preparing to reopen this week for one group of students and next week for a second group. The two groups — cohorts B and A — may be combined to attend school four days per week as early as March, depending on health conditions and adult vaccinations in the city and among district employees.

But Youngstown City Schools have been operating under an all-remote system since the governor closed schools last spring. We are approaching the one-year mark since students in the Youngstown school district have learned in their classrooms.

And so far, CEO Justin Jennings is noncommittal about when students in the Mahoning Valley’s largest district will return to classrooms for in-person teaching.

That’s probably troubling to many parents in the district.

Now, let me be clear. Online learning options can be right for some students. Families with serious health concerns or with parents better equipped with the time or ability to tutor their kids may find in-home learning the better answer, right now.

But I believe families should have the choice. Apparently the governor agrees.

DeWine has said his reasoning for the urgency of returning kids to in-school learning is the significant consequences that come from not having Ohio’s kids in schools. Those include things like mental health issues along with quality of education and ability for individual students to keep up via online learning.

Many children struggle to learn, even in the classroom. It stands to reason that learning remotely can create only bigger challenges for them.

Absolutely, COVID-19 is a threat. But so, too, is a system in which kids struggle to learn.

Isn’t it time we get back to school?

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