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What will classrooms look like in the fall? Leaders from Ohio's largest districts wait for guidance

Answers needed sooner rather than later to prepare
Remote learning
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jun 22, 2020

CLEVELAND — Leaders from the state's eight largest school districts, including Cleveland and Akron, are calling on Governor Mike DeWine for answers on questions before a detailed plan on what a return to school may look like in the fall.

Members of "The Ohio 8" told reporters on a lengthy call on Monday they need answers about federal money distribution, testing standards and additional funding now before they can map out a plan for later.

"It's going to be a large expense if we have to open under current guidelines," said David James, Superintendent of Akron Public Schools.

CEO of The Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Eric Gordon, said he wants federal funds from the CARES Act based on Title 1, which is based on a district's poverty level rather than distributing it based on non-regulatory guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education.

If the decision is not based on poverty, Gordon said it would cost the district millions.

Gordon also explained roughly 40 percent of families in CMSD don't have internet access. He said the district found a short term fix but it will cost millions long term. He is calling on Governor DeWine to use the CARES Act discretionary funds for reliable internet statewide for urban and rural areas where there is a need.

"We estimate that need in Cleveland, which is the fourth-worst connected city in the country, at $40 million," Gordon said.

There is also concern that some districts could lose a generation of young readers without in-school learning. Some educators want the state to consider dropping some state testing requirements.

The cost of bringing kids back to school safely under current health guidelines is expected to cost the Akron Public School District millions of dollars. That price tag includes $3 million for hand sanitizer, $2 million for disposable masks, plus cleaning supplies, transporting and educating children while social distancing, plus taking temperatures of students and staff before boarding buses or entering buildings.

James said the back-to-school plans could differ from district to district when the school bell rings in the fall.

"If the COVID situation is different in different areas across the state, some districts may have to take a varied approach," he explained.

Members of The Ohio 8 Coalition agree there is a sense of urgency to get questions answered from the state sooner rather than later so planning can begin.