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House Dems announce feedback from districts as Ohio schools begin new academic year amid pandemic

September 9, 2020
Democrat Newsroom

COLUMBUS- Ohio House Democrats today announced the feedback members received from a back-to-school questionnaire created for teachers, administrators, students, parents, grandparents and other caregivers to share their thoughts and concerns with lawmakers as the new school year is underway.

Responses from the questionnaire indicate that Ohioans are facing a myriad of issues regarding the start of the school year, which include but are not limited to:

  • Not having access to reliable, high speed internet access at all times;
  • Parents or grandparents not being able to work from home or find childcare while their children attend class virtually;
  • Virtual learning not adequately preparing students for the next grade level;
  • Lacking firm and consistent guidance from state and local elected officials;
  • Not enough being done to address students with developmental disabilities;
  • Schools facing unprecedented costs due to regular, deep sanitization of buildings.

A total of 440 individuals from urban, suburban and rural districts around the state completed the back-to-school questionnaire, which was sent out by several Democratic lawmakers throughout the last two weeks of August.

This constituent outreach comes following House Democrats’ summer Ohio Promise Virtual Town Hall Tour, which comprised of more than two dozen virtual town halls on topics including COVID-19, jobs and the economy, racial justice, gun safety, back to school procedures, and voting access. Across the state, nearly 20,000 Ohioans tuned in to these town halls to hear from their elected officials and ask questions.

“The conversations we’ve had and the feedback we’ve received make it clear that much more work needs to be done for our school districts and our communities,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “Our students and parents are telling us they feel isolated and frustrated. They are asking for more guidance and more structure from their state elected officials and they deserve real leadership during this uncertain time. House Democrats renew our call to House Republican leadership to bring back the legislature to address these and other COVID-19 concerns. Our constituents deserve more support.”

House Primary and Secondary Education Committee Ranking Member Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon) agrees and says this questionnaire accurately reflects what he too is hearing from his constituents. Rep. Robinson has previously criticized Governor DeWine for his lack of a statewide plan to address school re-opening and the continued confusion his lack of leadership creates.

“My constituents and other Ohioans have been voicing their anxiety and concerns about students returning to school and needing more help in these difficult times for quite a while now. The respondents of this questionnaire confirm what my fellow Democrats and I have already been saying: Both federal and state government need to provide more support to both schools and families who are struggling from COVID-19 and its economic implications,” said Rep. Robinson. “Regardless of whether schools are instituting virtual, in-person, or hybrid plans for classes; they need more flexibility and funds from all of the additional costs all of these options bring.

Parents who have children with partial or full virtual classes, either because of that was their school district’s policy or their choice out of health concerns, are being put in the untenable situation of trying to afford the costs of someone to watch their children if they have a job they can’t have work from home as on option. Computer and internet access for low-income families and communities was already a problem before the pandemic.

Now when we need it more than ever, and resources like public libraries are not even an option. Both Congress and the Ohio General Assembly need to take action. I urge Gov. DeWine to provide more guidance on these issues and urge Speaker Cupp and Sen. Pres. Obhof to make this our top priority, equal only to the repeal of HB 6, and convene committees and session to address these issues.”

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Editor’s note: a memo with a summary of the results is attached

House Dems announce feedback from districts as Ohio schools begin new academic year amid pandemic (PDF)