Dr. Laura Hebert
The Ravenna School District is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all of our students. It has been challenging to keep this commitment during the pandemic, however we are determined to put this virus in the rear view mirror. We are firm in our efforts to move forward, more focused than ever on creating a school environment that works for all students.
Recently the Ravenna School District made the decision to move to remote learning for a two-week period. This decision was not made lightly, and several factors were considered before reaching this conclusion. We want to make sure we share how this decision was reached.
As we share the background to this decision, it is important to understand what we know to be true as educators — students are better off in school, learning face-to-face, and interacting with their peers. The pandemic has hit our students hard — they were socially and emotionally isolated for three to seven months. Then, their return to school was anything but normal — masked and socially distanced. Depression, suicidal thinking, and acting out have been intensified because of the pandemic. When students finally returned to school in September of 2021, the hope was for a true “normal” experience. But, it was not to be — masking is still in place, and unfortunately, the newest variant (Omicron) has made us all retreat in our efforts to learn and live normally.
The Ohio Health Department has provided “Mask to Stay” guidance. If exposed to COVID, a student can stay in school if they remain asymptomatic and are masked. However, while students who are exposed can remain, teachers and students who are symptomatic, who are actually sick, do need to stay home — regardless of the severity of the symptoms.
Since the week after Thanksgiving, the Ravenna School District has experienced a high level of teacher, bus driver, food service, and custodial absences due to the virus. Although students are allowed to attend school if exposed and asymptomatic, if a bus driver or teacher cannot be provided, it is almost impossible to cover those classes and bus routes with substitutes. The pool of available substitutes, for all jobs, has decreased dramatically, leaving teachers to cover for their colleagues at such a rate that it is exhausting and not sustainable. With the peak of the Omicron variant projected to be during the week of Jan. 9-17, the Ravenna School District thought it prudent to move to remote learning during that time to limit the spread of the virus.
If transmission of the virus was the only factor, as a “Mask to Stay” school district, Ravenna could possibly ride out the Omicron outbreak in person. However, when you add in staff and student absences, the lack of substitutes, and the timing of the projected peak, it made sense to move to remote education for two weeks.
Our goal is two weeks of remote learning in the short term to avoid two (or more) months of remote learning long term. We are always committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for all of our students. This two week move to remote learning is just one way to achieve that goal.
Dr. Laura Hebert is superintendent of the Ravenna School District.