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Even with COVID vaccines, reopening Ohio schools by March 1 isn’t a guarantee

Alissa Widman Neese, The Columbus Dispatch |

More than a week after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a goal of resuming “in-person school by March 1” by soon offering Ohio’s school employees COVID-19 vaccines, few details are available about how the state plans to achieve it.

Though they were encouraged by the announcement, educators and medical experts say it’s unlikely that many schools will be able to resume completely normal operations by then, even with vaccines.

“We’re not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination. Even after the vaccine has been widely distributed, it’s not a panacea,” said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union. “All the things the CDC is saying are important to keep schools safe are still going to be necessary, and I expect that through at least the end of the school year.” 

During a press briefing last week, DeWine suggested that only schools that are operating in-person, or that indicate they’re willing to shift to fully in-person classes, might be offered the shots, possibly as early as mid-January. As of last week, 45% of Ohio’s students were learning completely online, 29% were in-person and 26% were a mix of both, he said. 

DiMauro said such stipulations might be counterproductive.

“We need to really pay attention to equity and vaccinate communities hit hardest by the pandemic first,” DiMauro said. “That would mean in districts like Columbus, that haven’t been able to open, because there hasn’t been a safe way to do that yet.”

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