Families of children with disabilities across Ohio and the nation are facing tough choices as the start of the school year looms large. With each school district free to make their own decisions regarding masking, some families are finding the options less than optional.
People with disabilities and their families often find themselves in what is known as a high risk COVID-19 category regardless of age. Children and adults with certain disabilities are more liking to suffer depleting results and possibly death if they contract COVID-19. Some are at so high of a risk that they are not able to be vaccinated. These groups of people rely on the actions of others to protect them or their loved ones.
According to the Centers for Disease Control the percent vaccinated across the entire United States is now 50.4% or 167.4 million. In Ohio, the percent vaccinated is 50.33%. In Cuyahoga County 55.72% of the population has at least started the vaccination process. This is still far below the number needed to protect the most vulnerable.
In addition, people that are vaccinated for COVID-19 can still spread the COVID-19 Delta variant if they contract a breakthrough infection. However, if they have received both shots early data points to carrying a lighter viral load than without being fully vaccinated. In other words, by receiving the vaccination a person does themselves a favor by making sure they are less likely to contract the virus. If they do contract COVID, the effects it has on them are still much more likely to be less severe than if they are not vaccinated. However, some can still carry as much virus in their nose as do unvaccinated people thus spreading the virus. Protecting everyone still means masking up.
So, what does that mean for school and those children ages 12 and under who are still not vaccinated?
If you are a loved one is in that high-risk category the hope is that your home school district is still taking COVID-19 very seriously. However, many are making masking optional and, as we know, masking works most effectively if everyone that can mask is masked. With the Delta variant being even more contagious than previous variants this is even more important. Those districts that are tracking cases and have a mask on, mask off policy is playing cat and mouse with Delta. Masks on prevents the spread, masks off invites COVID to spread and mutate once again. For those in the highest risk categories this is a dangerous policy, especially if the person cannot, or has yet to get the chance to, be fully vaccinated or is immune compromised.
The State of Ohio home school districts are no longer permitted to offer a virtual option as the COVID-19 emergency was declared over. Schools are not currently allowed to ask the vaccination status of their pupils, nor are they allowed to treat anyone any differently because of risk. If one is in the high-risk category masking is strongly encouraged.
Waiting for a vaccination or cannot get one? A virtual option may work for you.
Now to obtain a virtual option there are two routes.
1. Be lucky enough to live in a school district that has established a virtual school, or,
2. temporarily drop out of your current school district and join one of Ohio’s charter school online options.
School districts across Northern Ohio that offer a virtual option, or other institutional models for those at high risk or with disabilities include:
- Akron Public Schools
- Brunswick City School District
- Canon City School District
- Cleveland Heights – University Heights City School District
- Cleveland Metropolitan School District
- Cuyahoga Falls City School District
- Hudson City Schools
- Lakewood City Schools
- Parma City School District
- Shaker Heights Schools
- Streetsboro’s City Schools
- Strongsville City School District
- Twinsburg City School District
- Willoughby-Eastlake City School District
- Wooster City School District
Ohio virtual schools are:
- Alternative Education Academy General Education - K-12 Toledo City Summit (330) 253-8680
- Auglaize County Educational Academy Dropout Prevention and Recovery E-School K-12 Lima City Allen (419) 738-4572
- Buckeye On-Line School for Success General Education Statewide E-School K,1-12,PS East Liverpool City Columbiana (330) 385-1987
- Fairborn Digital Academy Dropout Prevention and Recovery E-School 9-12 Fairborn City Greene (937) 879-0511
- Findlay Digital Academy Dropout Prevention and Recovery E-School 9-12 Findlay City Hancock (419) 425-3598
- GOAL Digital Academy General Education E-School K-12 Mansfield City Richland (419) 7754809 ext 0; (877) 659-1900
- Great River Connections Academy General Education Statewide E-School K-12 Columbus City School District Franklin (614) 368-1288
- Greater Ohio Virtual School Dropout Prevention and Recovery Statewide E-School 7-12 Lebanon City Warren (513) 695-2924
- Mahoning Unlimited Classroom Dropout Prevention and Recovery E-School 4-12 Youngstown City Mahoning (330) 533-8755 ext 1180
- Ohio Connections Academy, Inc General Education Statewide E-School K-12 Cleveland Municipal Cuyahoga (513) 486-9120 ext 9120
- Ohio Digital Learning School Dropout Prevention and Recovery Statewide E-School K-12 Maumee City Lucas (419) 740-9007
- Ohio Virtual Academy General Education Statewide E-School K-12 Maumee City Lucas (419) 482-0948
- Quaker Digital Academy Dropout Prevention and Recovery Statewide E-School K-12 New Philadelphia City Tuscarawas (330) 364-0618
- Quaker Preparatory Academy General Education E-School K-8 New Philadelphia City Tuscarawas (330) 364-0618
- TRECA Digital Academy General Education Statewide E-School K-12 Marion City Marion (888) 828-4798
The above schools are tuition-free and are required by law to provide the services in a student’s IEP or 504 plan - quality may vary.
As more people receive their vaccinations and mask-up the risk will go down for the most vulnerable. Until such time, for these families and friends, it may be a matter of choosing the best options amongst choices, or lack of choices, that keeps the vulnerable most protected.
If we as a society move to protect the most vulnerable, we will also protect all of us.