DeWine: Ohio Will Have Staffs From 1,300 Schools Vaccinated By End Of Week
Calling it an “urgent necessity” to return students to the classroom, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that employees at more than 1,300 schools will have been able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the week.
At his bi-weekly coronavirus briefing, DeWine outlined the state’s strategy for dealing with the education disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and for assisting students impacted by the loss of normal learning this past year.
“We know that the pandemic has really been disruptive in some way for all the children, just as it's been disruptive for all adults in Ohio,” DeWine said. “In the spring, all Ohio children were out of school, and during this academic year, some kids have been entirely remote, some have been entirely in the classroom, and some have been a combination of the two.”
Ohio this week expanded vaccine eligibility to all residents ages 65 and older, and will hold it there for the next few weeks. More than 2.2 million people are included in Group 1B of the vaccine rollout, according to the state, which also includes people with developmental disabilities.
As of Tuesday, Ohio has started vaccinations for 1,076,415 people, or 9.21 percent of the population. Of those, just under 326,000 people have received both doses of the vaccine.
DeWine defended his administration's choice to place teachers high on the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility list, saying the state is making progress on its goal of having all students back in school, at least part-time, by March 1.
Ohio began offering the COVID-19 vaccine to school teachers and staff at the beginning of the month, with 566 schools getting the shots in the first week. That's set to double by the end of this week.
DeWine's emphasis on in-person learning has already paid dividends: Ohio students in fully-remote schools dropped from 45 percent in December to 15 percent as of Feb. 4. The number of districts that remain fully remote has gone from 219 to 34.
Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria joined the press conference to emphasize the impact that remote learning has had on students. The Department of Education recently released data on fall 2020 enrollment and student assessments, which confirmed that the pandemic negatively affected attendance and performance for many Ohio children, especially minority and disadvantaged students.
Overall enrollment decreased by about 3 percent, DeMaria said, with the greatest concentration in preschool and kindergarten classes, showing that some parents may have opted out of starting their children in school at all during the pandemic.
In the upper grades, Ohio is seeing more high school students dropping out, possibly to get a job or take care of family.
While DeMaria said the numbers didn't come as a surprise, “it really emphasizes the importance of getting students back to school.”
In response to these growing concerns, DeWine announced several actions intended at helping students get “back on track.”
“I’m asking them today, each school district in the state, to formulate a plan aimed at the individual needs of each of their students,” he said. “I also want to speak to every parent: I would ask you to communicate to your local school where you see the needs are with your child and what ideas that you have as far as how we can catch back up.”
The governor is asking schools to work with parents and the public to have an educational recovery plan by April 1. All options are on the table at this point, DeWine said, including adding more days to the current school year, lengthening school days, and offering tutoring or summer programs.
“Our kids get one chance to grow up, so we cannot delay,” DeWine said.
The governor’s proposed budget also would expand the state's investment in wraparound and student services for schools to $1.1 billion.
That money, which DeWine said he pushed for in his last two-year budget, has been used to open on-site health clinics, counseling and after-school programs. At Columbus City Schools, the governor said those funds went to providing more social workers and implementing a suicide prevention program with the help of Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Ohio's coronavirus numbers popped up again on Tuesday after dipping over the weekend. On Monday, the state recorded the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases – 1,926 – since October, but the next day cases increased again to 3,207.
Ohio hospitalizations dipped below 2,000 again on Tuesday, with 528 patients in the ICU and 340 on ventilators.
DeWine said previously that if hospitalizations stood below 2,500 for seven days in a row, the state's curfew – which has already been pushed to 11 p.m. – would be dropped entirely. That will likely be assessed on Thursday.
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