After a constantly-changing and challenging year for education because of the coronavirus pandemic, local educators hope the new year brings some stability.
Parents and educators are hopeful new vaccines and a better understanding of COVID-19 could get things back on track for school children.
"It's amazing that we made it,” Cincinnati Public Schools parent Marsha Thornton said. “It's not ideal."
Ohio Department of Education superintendent of public instruction Paolo DeMaria said the 2020-2021 season has been a roller-coaster ride.
“It started out not really knowing what we were getting into,” she said.
In a year that saw districts statewide changing learning plans nearly every month, including extending at-home learning, switching to blended-learning models, and even fully suspending classes, concerns are being raised about the long-term impact of the quality of education and the mental health of students.
“I definitely think it’s been a more difficult year emotionally for my children,” CPS parent Jen Salstrom said.
Teachers and leaders share some of the same concerns.
“They need to be in school,” said Carolyn Jones, CPS Board of Education president. “We have come to grips with the fact that in-class learning is best for our kids."
Schools and families are hopeful kids in every district can go back to class full time in the next few months, especially with plans in the works to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all school staff.
“Our goal at a minimum is for any child in the state that wants to be back in school to be back in school by March 1,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a news conference on Dec. 23.
That goal gives families something to look forward to in 2021. Parents say even the limited amount of in-person learning some students got made a big difference during the fall session.
“I saw a difference in the mentality of my kids and their happiness, their engagement with their peers and being able to actually meet their teachers,“ Salstrom said.
Some schools in the Tri-State are already back to in-person learning full time, but many are still in remote- or hybrid-learning models. State and local leaders in education warn a lot of factors have to fall into place to make a full return to school possible.
"The reality is, until things settle down, we may continue to experience that kind of uncertainty and those kind of changes," DeMaria said.
The bottom line for most districts across the Tri-State is that there are no guarantees – and parents and educators both said the community needs to take COVID-19 seriously to help make it safe for kids to get back to school.