Regional schools request COVID-19 pilot program through state

Christine Holmes
Zanesville Times Recorder
Lori Snyder-Lowe, Superintendent of Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center

ZANESVILLE — Superintendents from 40 school districts across the region, including Belmont, Muskingum, Coshocton and Guernsey counties, have come together in a letter to Governor Mike DeWine requesting a standardized protocol for COVID-19 that would keep kids in the classroom.

The letter was composed by Muskingum Valley Education Service Center (MVESC) Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe, who addressed it to Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff in addition to DeWine.

"We also sent it to our area legislators and our local health departments for all of these districts," she said.

The letter suggests ways in which school districts in southeast and east central Ohio, many of which are rural, can keep kids in school without returning to remote learning. 

According to Snyder-Lowe, data from the Ohio Department of Education released at the beginning of the month indicates students did not achieve as well while learning from home as they did in the classroom. 

She said the data also addresses the challenges in rural areas related to internet and transportation restrictions. 

Currently, the state has launched a pilot program with the Warren County schools in southwest Ohio. 

The program offers a plan for unvaccinated students to remain in school if exposed to COVID-19, which includes masking and passing to rapid tests a few days apart.

MVESC is requesting its districts participate in a similar pilot program to keep kids in school since the current guidelines require exposed students to quarantine at home for 10 days if they have not been vaccinated.

"We believe that our students are struggling academically, and with social-emotional wellness issues as a result of the numerous quarantines," Snyder-Lowe said. "We felt it was imperative that we do everything possible to keep students in school."

Under the proposal, an unvaccinated student would be allowed to remain in school by wearing a mask. 

"We are hoping that with our 40 superintendents' voices on this letter, that Governor DeWine and Dr. Vanderhoff will consider a pilot for our rural areas, our Appalachian region," Snyder-Lowe said. "We feel that the dynamics here are significantly different than Warren County in terms of access to online learning, because a lot of our areas do not have the capability for online learning at home."

cmholmes@gannett.com

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Twitter: @cmholmesgannett