Cleveland Moms 'Mentally Prepared' For Extended School Closures

All K-12 students in Ohio are now staying home from school through May 1 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announced at his Monday press conference.   

Gov. Mike DeWine originally mandated a three-week "extended spring break" that would have extended through April 3 — this Friday.

Just like everyone else, parents of Northeast Ohio students have been watching the news, and watching as the pandemic escalates in New York City.  Cleveland Heights parent Kari Burns points to the fact that experts say the COVID-19 outbreak peak won’t hit Ohio until mid-May.  

“I’m not surprised,” Burns said. “I really, honestly, this whole time, have been gearing myself up that we’re home until like, June 1 from work and from school.  So, we set up her desk and her little schedule and we’ll be ready for this!”

Burns applauded DeWine’s “strong leadership skills” but did wonder why he hasn’t called for students to stay home from school for the rest of the academic year.

Cleveland Heights resident Kari Burns and her children. [Kari Burns]

“I would be interested to hear his reasoning for May 1, because they’re done with school at the end of May, so what are they going to do for a month?” Burns asked. “But they’re doing what’s right, so I’m just going with the flow at this point.”

Shaker Heights resident and mother of two Sahithya Wintrich has been looking at the data and graphs that show the coronavirus’s spread and “mentally preparing” herself to stay home with her children for the next month or two.

“What I've done this week is shift my mindset,” said Wintrich. “Instead of looking at it as, ‘you know, this is hard and this is disruptive,’ I am looking at it as an opportunity for me to connect with my kids when they're this young.”

For her and a lot of working parents, Wintrich said the stay-at-home order is demanding,  but at the same time she is happy with DeWine’s vigilance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wasn't sure about DeWine when he got elected,” said Wintrich. “But I think the fact that he stepped up and, we were one of the first states to basically act on this. His messaging and his call to action for everybody to stay home, to keep people safe. I am completely impressed and completely on board.”

The top concern for Juanita McGowen is keeping her family safe during this pandemic, she said. But McGowen worries about her 4 year old, who attends a special needs morning preschool in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district.  

“And so we really rely on the school district and also Baldwin Wallace University to help us with providing speech therapy for her,” McGowen said. “It's really important. And together they have made such huge strides in giving her confidence and being able to speak. And so, yeah, it's a little bit scary because that kind of just all got taken away within just a matter of a few days.”

Juanita McGowen with her husband and daughter. [Juanita McGowen]

Before the order to quarantine was issued, McGowen said she was very accustomed to splitting her day between being “work J” and a “mom and a wife,” so the extended time at home with her husband and daughter has been an adjustment.

“Luckily, my employer is very adaptable and has always been very supportive of employees with families and working from home and things like that,” said McGowen. “It’s just scary just to fulfill the role as parent and teacher. And it really sort of makes you appreciate how hard [teachers] work and the special talent that they have.”

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