Demonstrators call for return to school with no restrictions

There’s nothing normal about the “new normal” during the coronavirus, especially when it means radically altering learning and requiring students to wear masks, street-side demonstrators in Butler County said on Saturday.

More than 40 supporters of the “Free Ohio Now” group held signs and encouraged motorists at the busy Tylersville and Cox Road intersection in West Chester Township to honk their car horns if they agreed school officials shouldn’t alter traditional classroom learning when they re-open in August.

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The local group’s protest, which coincided with events by other local chapters of the group across the state, was designed to raise public awareness about the possibility of major changes in the traditional school and classroom configuration, which some state and local officials back as necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.



“We’re trying to get the message out about getting kids back to school full-time on as normal a schedule and basis as possible,” said Todd Minniear, referencing the state-ordered shutdown of all Ohio K-12 schools in March in reaction to the coronavirus.

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Public and private schools across the state were asked to quickly design remote learning programs over the internet, which was problematic for some area school districts whose larger percentage of lower-income families saw many lacking digital access.

Now state officials and local school leaders are actively exploring a variety of different ways to start the next school year in August, some of which may include more remote learning or possible rotation of traditional school attendance combined with periodic distant learning and other approaches.

“There have been so many challenges with the distance learning, particularly for younger kids, so we’re just trying to get the awareness out that these decisions are being made right now by the governor as well as by superintendents across the whole state of Ohio,” said Minniear.

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“We’re trying to get on the front end of those decisions that kids really need to be back in school,” he said.

Hannah Weaver, a local teacher, said: “I’m here to protest kids being in school and having to wear masks.”

Weaver added that the potential of social distancing regulations, which would separate students who would normally share classrooms and other school spaces, isn’t healthy.

“As a teacher, I know that (normality) is really, really important for kids for their whole development, not just their mental and physical development,” she said.

State superintendent Paolo DeMaria has said an updated version of Ohio’s fall restart guide for K-12 schools is expected in the next two weeks, but new proposed legislation also is likely to affect parts of the process.

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