PERRYSBURG, Ohio — Parents spoke out against hybrid learning at Monday's Perrysburg school board meeting, but the process to return in-person may take longer than some have hoped.
Superintendent Thomas Hosler said the goal has been and continues to be getting kids back in-person all the time, however, there are a lot of factors hanging in the balance.
"There are social, emotional, academic concerns. I talk to my kids, you talk to kids, you know, it's a real thing," Hosler said. "We always have to find a balance between stopping the spread of the virus and getting kids into schools."
The current goal is to have Jr. High School students return four days a week on Nov. 10 before Perrysburg High School students gradually follow suit beginning Jan. 19. Currently, students are attending in-person classes just two days a week.
Monday's meeting got off to a contentious start, as several parents and educators made emotional pleas to step away from remote learning.
ASL teacher Delta Kimmel explained she sees the vacant expressions on her students' faces, saying they are lonely, stressed and struggling to sleep.
"At what cost do we push our students to accept our current situation," she said.
Hosler acknowledged the impact remote education has had on the emotional well-being of students. However, he expressed concern that going back too early could end up causing even more disruption to families if a spike were to occur, requiring them to transition back to remote learning.
"Whatever we do, we don't want to go to a place where we flip the switch where everything happens. We have seen states do that, where they move too fast and then backtrack," Hosler said. "That is hard for families."
While the district has documented relatively few positive cases, Hosler noted that many more have had to then quarantine for two weeks. In fact, 14 students have had to quarantine twice already. Hosler said this will only continue to increase, especially with more opportunities for contact.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said that spread is not frequently happening within school walls, rather, the spread is occurring at large personal gatherings, a sentiment Hosler repeated on Monday. He said when he asks parents where they believe their child contracted the virus, after "unknown" the most common answer was from a family member.
Hosler noted another trend: 6.5% of positive cases have come from travel, non-school-sponsored sports. He said traveling across state lines each weekend greatly increases the risk of getting exposed, noting again, that when one student tests positive, they pull out a whole group of kids with them.
Wood County is in the Level 2 (Orange) category of the state's Public Health Advisory system. On Thursday, the county was reported to have 123 cases per 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's threshold for high incidence is just 100. While many people claim Bowling Green State University is the source of most of the spread, Hosler noted that Perrysburg is one of the top feeder schools to the university. Many of those students come back on weekends and work in the community or hang out with their families or have friends who may still be in high school. He said that just because the university is in Bowling Green, the data shouldn't be dismissed.
After two hours of discussion, the board decided that the data from within the district's school buildings demonstrated the ability to move forward with planning for the Jr. High's return four days a week on Nov. 10. The district will evaluate the success of the Jr. High from Nov. 11 - Jan. 13 before potentially phasing in high school students four days a week on Jan. 19.
Details are expected to be announced at the next board meeting on Nov. 3, with the expectation that the district could pull back on the plan should the virus take a sharp turn in the coming weeks.