Conditions haven’t changed to make the return to in-person classes feasible for Bowling Green students.
After meeting Tuesday to discuss the upcoming vaccines for school personnel, as well as a study that minimizes the quarantine of students, a majority of school board members maintained their stance that keeping students home is safer than bringing them to school.
No vote was taken to change the education model.
Board member Ryan Myers said the district should go hybrid.
He said that a study, which was referenced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last week as a reason to get students back in the classroom, showed there is no spread in schools if everyone is wearing masks and maintain 6-foot separation
“If we could do anything, the hybrid model makes the most sense,” Myers said, and asked if that can be done soon. “If we could do 6 feet or more now in a hybrid model, why not go back?”
The coronavirus matrix, which was approved by the board in November, says students should not return, said Superintendent Francis Scruci. Wood County remains “red” in the state public advisory board. The county would have to drop to “orange” for some students to return in a hybrid model.
The new studies should override the matrix, Myers said. When it was discussed, vaccines were not anticipated until spring nor was the new study complete, he said.
“This is obviously tough,” Myers said. “There’s no right answer. People’s comfort levels are all over the place.”
Board member Ginny Stewart said that the new study is flawed.
“I want to move our kids forward, but I want to do it in a safe way,” she said.
Stewart said she has read the study – what she called a pilot evaluation – and only nine schools of the more than 600 in the state were included.
It is not a research study and should not answer the question of whether masks and distancing is effective, Stewart said, and any decision should not hinge on its results.
“When we originally made the decisions, it was based on the safety of our kids and teachers,” she said.
“The vaccines are a deal breaker, but we don’t know when we will get them,” Stewart added.
She said the district shouldn’t change its teaching method if nothing else has changed.
“When you adhere to the masks and 6 feet, spread is not happening in school,” he said.
Scruci said all of the student coronavirus cases are coming through extracurriculars or from home.
“I hear what you’re saying … but ultimately it’s your decision,” he said.
“We’ve kept the community safe and the kids safe for a number of months … we just need to make some smart decisions moving forward,” said board President Norm Geer.
Myers wanted it confirmed that any changes to the educational model would be due to a change in the matrix, vaccinations or new guidelines.
A local introduction on the new, more virile strain of the virus, also needs to be considered, said board member Jill Carr.
Myers said he respected everyone’s opinion.
“We all have the same goal, just a different roadmap to get there,” he said.
“This topic creates a visceral reaction … it can be nasty out there,” Myers aid about differing opinions.
“No one has been through this before, we all just need to give each other a little more grace,” Carr said.
BG VOICE representative Jim Trampveski said in an interview after the meeting that what he heard was three board members “structuring the next excuse why Bowling Green will remain the only district that has not returned to in-person learning.”
He said he would be surprised if students return to school by May.
“As a board, I think Ryan (Myers) brought in up eloquently … (he) represents a good majority of the people who believe the best place for kids to be is in school,” Trampveski said.
“It’s safe enough now,” he added.
Trampveski had harsh words for the board members, saying their actions are an indictment of why the public school system in the U.S. is failing so many families.
“It doesn’t sound to me like this board has made any progress to reach out to the districts that have a plan … to see what is working for them. Because something clearly is,” he said.
Bowling Green remains the only district in Wood County that has continued to teach online this school year.
Trampveski said he intends to pull his 13-year-old daughter, who has struggled in the district’s online option, out of the district in order to give her better options.
“I expected better and I was sorely disappointed.”
After the meeting, Scruci said discussions on in-person classes are continuing.
“We need to get a little bit more information and we need to see what the board does Jan. 19,” he said. “The board has to make a decision no one has ever made.”
If the vaccine arrives sooner than expected, the decision may be easier, Scruci added.
School personnel, as well as those over 65 and those with a severe medical condition, fall into the state’s next round of vaccinations.
Scruci said the vaccines will be available Feb. 1 at the earliest.
“We don’t know when those doses will be available,” he said, and the two-stage process puts the second dose out 28 days.
Personnel will not be required to get the vaccinations and will not lose their jobs if they refuse to do so.
Scruci said if a decision is made to return to the classroom, the turnaround time would be two weeks or quicker.
Also Tuesday, the board heard that education time for secondary students will increase Jan. 25, as Mondays now will be used to offer 30-minute classes. Mondays had been a deep-cleaning day, with no school.
There will be no change at the elementary level.
Stewart stressed that parents of kids that are struggling need to reach out and ask for help.