Ohio school districts may add days to their academic year, extend the number of hours students spend at school or add counseling and tutoring services to help compensate for learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday afternoon. And those are just a few of the options.
Speaking Tuesday, DeWine said he hopes for each district in the state to develop its own needs-tailored plan for post-COVID learning recovery by April 1. Parents, educators and students should all be involved in deciding what it looks like, he added.
“The bottom line is this: The future of our state depends on how we help our children today,” the governor said. “We simply cannot fail these children. Each child in Ohio deserves the opportunity to live up to his or her full God-given potential. We cannot allow this pandemic to get in the way of their ability to flourish and to thrive.”
Additional programs will be paid for with $2 billion in federal funding and, DeWine hopes, with money allocated by his new state budget.
Almost every district in the state had returned to some form of in-person instruction by the time DeWine spoke, fueled by his conditional approval for staff vaccinations: K-12 educators can get COVID-19 shots, but only if their districts agree to resume in-person instruction.
A Tuesday appearance by Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Paolo DeMaria highlighted the academic stakes of withdrawal from the classroom. During the pandemic, DeMaria said, academic performance drops happened everywhere in the state — but students in all-remote instruction experienced bigger losses than students receiving some in-person classes.
State assessments for kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading levels returned lower scores in 2020 than in 2019, particularly among minority students and students who lack access to educational resources at home.
His department has also recorded less enrollment in kindergarten and pre-K programs and expects to see a higher rate of high schoolers dropping out to help support struggling families.
The next step for the state, DeWine said, is simple: "Stay calm, roll up our sleeves, and work to solve the problem.”
He added he wanted to leave districts’ decisions to local leaders so that each will be able to create the best plan for its students and families.
Vaccination still on hold for under-65 Ohioans
DeWine reiterated his commitment to freezing COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for several weeks so that seniors seeking vaccination aren’t forced to compete with younger groups of Ohioans.
Monday marked the final scheduled age-based expansion — all Ohioans over 65 are now eligible for the shot, as are K-12 teachers, frontline health care workers, nursing home workers and residents, and people who have intellectual disabilities along with at least one other health condition that puts them at risk of complications.
The only remaining expansion scheduled is for people who have one of the above-mentioned health conditions but do not have intellectual disabilities.
“We’re going to hang here at 65 until we’re to a position when we have a pretty good idea that people who want this have been able to get it,” DeWine said. “It’s going to be a while.”
About 2.2 million Ohioans are over the age of 65, according to United States census data. The state receives around 140,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine every week.
By the numbers
The Ohio Department of Health reported 3,207 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — still under the 21-day average of 4,242, but far above Monday’s lowest-in-months total of 1,926.
ODH also recorded 181 new hospitalizations, 22 new intensive care admissions and 98 new deaths.