BG Schools at home

Pens and paper for school work sit on the kitchen table.

A rally is being planned to show support for a community-wide decision on whether Bowling Green City Schools students should return to the classroom.

BG VOICE is sponsoring the rally, which will be Monday from 4-6 p.m. on the sidewalks surrounding Wooster Green. The public is invited to attend. Masks and social distancing will be required.

The rally is planned the day before the next board of education meeting.

“We feel that we want our voice to be heard before that meeting,” said Jessica Swaisgood. “Just because you made a decision doesn’t mean you can’t alter it based on what parents in the community are asking you to do.”

She said she expects 50 people to attend the rally.

“They have every right to protest,” said school board President Ginny Stewart. “They have every right to have petitions signed. That is how democracy works.”

An estimated 800 people have signed the petition, Swaisgood said.

BG VOICE – Voting On In Classroom Education — is being promoted as a group that desires the families in the Bowling Green community to have a choice for their children to attend school in person.

“Our mission is to bring about change in a positive manner and for our voices to be heard by those who were elected to represent us,” said Swaisgood, who started the group. “We have one unified goal and that is for the well-being of all children in this community.”

Families need to be offered choices for how their children receive education during this pandemic to meet academic, social, and emotional needs. Choosing to utilize remote education is a choice, which has always been on the table. This group is asking for a choice for those families that want their children learning in a classroom, she said in a written statement.

Swaisgood said earlier this week she started BG VOICE because when she heard the school board’s vote to remain online, she wasn’t angry but knew there had to be a way to come up with an education plan that would work for all families.

“We are a voice for all of those parents, teachers and community members who want a voice to have our kids in the classrooms,” she said.

Stewart said she was not going to ask for a re-vote.

“I think the board spoke. We run under the premise of majority rule. That doesn’t mean things won’t change,” she said.

“The board feels strongly about how we voted. Does it mean that we aren’t listening? No it doesn’t. Does it mean things won’t change? No it doesn’t.”

Stewart said the the board is being bombarded with messages from parents who want their children in the classroom — and parents who want to stay online.

“We are willing to listen. We have been inundated with emails from both sides. I answer those emails. I know what they’re saying. I’m listening,” she said. “Both sides, we all agree that what we’re trying to do is best for the kids and the teachers. It is the approach that is different.”

Superintendent Francis Scruci agreed.

“Typically, we always take input from parents,” he said. “I think this board has listened and heard what was said.”

They made a decision counter to what people want, he added, and agreed that another vote should not be taken.

“Once you make a decision, if you are already changing, that creates adverse decisions,” Scruci said.

Swaisgood is looking for positive people to join the group who have the same goal as she does: “What’s in the best interest for our children.”

“This is not about COVID, it is offering choices,” she said. “Many families feel children should be back in school and I don’t think that voice had been represented.”

Students have been attending online lessons since Sept. 8 and have been out of the classroom since the governor closed schools March 16. The school board voted 3-2 on Oct. 8 to remain online.

Swaisgood said she has seen both positives and negatives within her own family with online classes. One child is excelling while the other is struggling, she said.

“Her learning style does not work with this platform,” she said. “That’s why I want options and choices for families. I want to have a choice to send her to school.”

Teachers and administrators have had two meetings in the last week to discuss how to improve the method of instruction and will continue to tweak it “because this is a world we’ve never been in,” Scruci said.

Swaisgood said she believes the community is filled with smart people who can put their minds together to come up with a plan to go back to school and keep everyone safe.

The Facebook group she started has nearly 600 members.

Swaisgood said parents want a seat at the table to help the school board come up with a plan.

“If they want a seat at the table, they need to run for school board when the time comes up like we did,” Stewart said. “They elected us and our constituents had faith in us to do the job.”

An effort to get comments from other members of the BG VOICE Facebook group was unsuccessful.

“I fully support my schools, teachers and community,” Swaisgood said. “This is a positive movement. I have no room for hate or venting. We are bringing out positive change.”

If parents don’t want to send their child to school, keep them home and enroll them in NOVA, which is taught online by non-district personnel, she said.

“By allowing us to be heard we will help the board of education create a comprehensive plan to meet both choices. Our group has collected extensive data and feel it can be done with hard work and cooperation,” Swaisgood’s publicity statement said.

The data is a comparison of what other school districts with NCAA Division 1 schools are doing.

That data, on the BG VOICE Facebook page, shows Akron City Schools with an enrollment of 2,442 students is bringing back students in a hybrid model this week; Fairborn City Schools with an enrollment of 4,169 has been face to face since Sept. 8; Kent City Schools with an enrollment of 3,300 is using a blended model; Talawanda Schools with an enrollment of 3,000 will have 70% of students return face to face on Oct. 20; Youngstown City Schools with an enrollment of 5,252 remains remote due to an increase in state numbers (the decision will be re-evaluated every three weeks).

“We need a similar plan when putting kids in school. We’re intelligent people. Other districts are figuring it out,” Swaisgood said.

The data also included other districts which are all located in cities with Division 1 colleges. They include Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland and Akron, all with enrollments from 12,000 to 69,000.

BG VOICE’s petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/bowling-green-city-school-board-bring-the-bgcs-students-back-to-the-classrooms. A yard sign campaign is also being planned.

For more information, contact communicationsBGVOICE@gmail.com.

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