Parents, teachers give mixed reviews to school reopen

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The governor’s lack of a statewide school reopening response, along with internet connectivity were among the topics on which parents and school personnel gave feedback in a questionnaire sent out by Democratic lawmakers.

Of the 440 responses collected through an online survey sent to House Democratic Caucus districts, nearly 74% said virtual learning was the primary mode of education in their districts, but a majority (42%) believed that virtual learning wouldn’t adequately prepare students for the next grade level, according to results released by the House Democratic Caucus.

There was nearly a dead heat when it came to the number of parents able to stay home with their children during virtual learning, with 50.38% saying they were unable to work from home, and 49.62% saying they were able to work from home or were a stay-at-home parent.

Reliable, high-speed internet was available for 87% of the people who responded to the survey, but those who said they didn’t have reliable access said they would be using hotspots provided by schools or going to another location, like a library.

“Some respondents didn’t have a solution to this, and some expressed uncertainty about being able to pay their internet bills,” the survey results stated.

State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, said connectivity in low-income families and communities was a problem before the pandemic, but has become even more of a problem amid the pandemic.

“Parents who have children with partial or full virtual classes, either because 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 (and) they can’t have work from home as an option,” Robinson said in a statement.

The Ohio Department of Education said they have been working to distribute $50 million in federal CARES Act funding that Lt. Gov. Jon Husted pledged to set aside for Broadband Ohio Connectivity Grants. These grants, however, are going to school districts, not individual students.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidance on school reopening was given negative reviews, with 29% of survey participants saying they were “dissatisfied,” and 27.5% saying they were “very dissatisfied” with the governor’s office’s response.

Survey respondents were also deeply split on their level of satisfaction with their district’s reopening plan. Of the 436 respondents to the question, 22.25% were “dissatisfied” with their reopening plan, while 21.1% were “very satisfied.”

The divide widened when it came to the opinion of the local school board, with 45.8% expressing approval of their local school board’s distribution of information.

In written responses, survey-takers said they wanted “more consistent and firm guidance” from elected officials, more options for school participation and more help when it comes to students with developmental disabilities, according to the survey results.