Are your kids going back to school next week?
The short answer to this question is probably, unless you live in Cleveland — and a mask will most likely be required.
The longer answer is that we checked in with nearly two dozen area schools and received a wide variety of responses. The big news was in Cleveland where, on Wednesday, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon announced that when staff return for a professional day Monday, and students return to school from winter break the following day, they will do so virtually.
Gordon said the move was put in place for the first week of school in 2022 due to the high incidence of COVID-19, and the hope is that will be temporary. “We will continue to monitor the health data throughout the week to determine our ability to return to in-person learning, hopefully for the week of Jan. 10,” Gordon said in a video announcing the change.
Also Wednesday, Bedford schools made the decision to go virtual for at least the first week back to school after winter break, with plans to resume in-person learning the week of Jan. 10
But throughout the Cleveland area, many school districts are continuing with plans to resume in-person school next week.
“We believe consistent in-person learning provides the best social-emotional and educational environment for our students,” says Scott Stephens, executive director for communications and engagement for Shaker Heights schools.
One of the first groups of people eligible for COVID vaccines when supplies were short at the beginning of the year were school employees. Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged school employees to get vaccinated as a step to maintain in-person learning, which he’d said was the best outcome for students.
According to state data, 98.9 percent of districts in Ohio — serving a total of 98.4 percent of students in the state — were committed to five-day-a-week in-person learning to start the school year. But only 29.5 percent of districts had any type of mask requirement, be it for some students or all.
Lakewood is one of the districts that has had a mask mandate in place, and that will continue when school resumes in person on Jan. 3, says spokeswoman Christine Gordillo.
The recent spike in cases is leading some Northeast Ohio school districts to reconsider their mask policies. Berea-Midpark Superintendent Tracy Wheeler announced that when school resumes next week, students, staff and all visitors will be required to wear masks, at least for the ensuing two weeks. “Our goal with this mask mandate is to remain in classrooms for in-person learning during this current COVID surge,” Wheeler said in a statement on the district website.
A mask mandate is also in place for Bay Village schools through Jan. 14. School resumes in Bay Village on Jan. 6, and the district is doing everything possible to avoid virtual learning.
A mask mandate has been implemented for when students return to St. Ignatius on Jan. 5. “Our goal is to maintain in-person learning for the entirety of the second semester,” says spokeswoman Lisa Metro. At Magnificat High School, the school year began with no mask mandate, but a mask mandate was quickly enforced. The mandate was lifted in late October and is now back in place.
Amy Popik, spokeswoman for Parma schools, says there is no change in plans, and masks remain optional for students and staff. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation, but it’s business as normal,” she says.
While COVID-19 cases are soaring in Ohio, the disease continues to affect adults much more severely than children. A total of 803 children under the age of 18 have died from COVIC-19 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 20 children have died in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.