COLUMBUS, Ohio — During Monday’s press conference, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that students across Ohio will not attend school in person and will continue remote learning for the remainder of the school year.
In-person K-12 schooling in Ohio had been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 30 until at least May 1. That was extended to encompass the remainder of the school year on Monday.
DeWine said he made the decision to extend the closures for the remainder of the year because the virus is still spreading and remains dangerous. He said that he felt it was not a good idea for students to return to school with only a few days left in the school year, whether COVID-19 was resolved or not.
The governor said that students returning to in-person schooling would not only put students at risk for contracting and transmitting the virus to each other, but to teachers, faculty and their communities.
DeWine said he has discussed the possibility of having a blended system for students this fall—incorporating a mix of remote learning and in-person learning.
With remote learning continuing for the foreseeable future, DeWine said he and his team are working to solve issues that have arisen with the pandemic and the conversion of K-12 learning to a remote setting.
The state will consider students with special developmental needs, students with higher susceptibility to severe complications of COVID-19, students who have limited access to the internet and children without a supportive home life when planning the next school year.
The news was not unexpected, but it was tough for some students to hear, particularly seniors looking forward to spring sports, prom, graduation and many other activities.
On Monday, high school stadiums across Northeast Ohio lit up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds at 8:20 p.m., in honor of the class of 2020.
Grace McCormack, a senior at Shaker Heights High School, said that the end of her senior year will be different than expected.
"I can’t really wrap up my senior year after spending 13 years in this district, so it feels like everything isn’t necessarily coming to a close the way you’d think it would," Grace said. "So it's just more uncomfortable than anything."
Grace said she would only have had 10 more days of classes before beginning her senior project, during which she planned to work remotely during the month of May anyway, so for her, not much will change in that regard.
Grace, who has a foundation in visual storytelling after taking an illustration course at the Cleveland Institute of Art, said a lot of her works tell stories and revolve around narratives. She described some of the work she's doing, including launching a comic with a Toronto artist for a short story contest, as well as working on a music video with an EDM artist based in England named Glow Beets.
While her senior project won't really change, she said many of her classmates' senior projects have been canceled, and they'll also be missing things like prom and graduation.
Grace added that she is introverted, so her reactions to missing out on those things are perhaps different than her classmates. She's sad for them to miss out on experiences they've looked forward to for a long time.
"It just like shows that we’re probably not going to be wrapping up the school year with like anything big, like all the other seniors have done that I know," Grace said.
"Just as schools have been innovative in regard to how to teach from a distance, I know that they're going to be innovative as they look at how they try to in some way honor the students and in some way, you know, compensate students for what what they are missing," DeWine said. "But it certainly is not going to be easy. And it is, it’s a real, real, real shame."
DeWine added, "I can't express how sorry I am about that. I know how much many of these activities, all of these activities mean to young people."
Grace and her father, Geoff McCormack, weren't surprised by the governor's announcement.
"It’s really tough for seniors in 2020, but hopefully we’ll all look back on this and realize that it’s an opportunity just to think a little bit differently and appreciate what we do have, rather than what we don’t have," McCormack said.
McCormack said he wasn't expecting school to resume this year.
"I think we recognized the sacrifices to be made and you know, we’re just waiting to see what happens. I mean, the news isn’t great and where people’s lives are at stake, we’ve got to do the right thing," McCormack said.
Grace said she is involved in helping publish an annual arts and writing magazine, but she and her teammates unsure if it can be physically published right now, so they're meeting three times a week to try to put together a website.
"Everyone’s in a panic of like what we can do to still like release everything that we gathered this year, in terms of art and writing submissions, because it’s from kids from all over the school,and piecing it together in a way that it can be like, 'Oh yeah, we still did it during this year,'" Grace said.
Grace plans to attend the University of Cincinnati for the fall semester and said things were up in the air as to whether they'd be on campus.
"It’s very inconvenient in many ways, because I’m going for an art-related major," Grace said. "Our first semester is foundations, so it’s basically prepping us for our major as a whole, and not being able to be on campus, it’ll be really hard. So I’m just very worried about that, but in the long run, if it means I’m safe and not getting sick, I’d rather stay home."
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