Will kids wear masks in school? How serious is COVID for children? How are families coping with all of this stress?

NOTE from Community Editor Amelia Robinson: the excerpts below from the Dayton Daily News Community Conversation panel Going Back to School During Coronavirus was printed in the newspaper's Ideas and Voices section Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020.

Hundreds of questions are on readers’ minds as Dayton area school prepare to resume classes.

The school bell will not sound anytime soon for many local children.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some districts will resume in-school instructions while many others will start the new school year with online-only classes or a combination of in-person school and online school.

Veteran Dayton Daily News education reporter Jeremy Kelley and I host the third in the Dayton Daily News Community Conversation this week: Going Back to School During Coronavirus.

We dove deep into an issue on the minds of our readers: can classes resume safely and effectively during a pandemic.

This week’s we feature excerpts from discussion shared with viewers on Dayton Daily News’ Facebook page. Comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Visited bit.ly/DaytonDailyNewsBackToSchool to view the full panel discuss on Facebook.

Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center

“The fear is real”

Q: There are fears that child abuse goes unnoticed when kids are not being seen by school employees, who are mandated reporters. How real is this fear and what can be done to mitigate it?

Dr. Lisa Ziemnik, program director of Dayton Children’s urgent care and Kids Express and a member of its back-to-school task force.

It’s not necessarily that the schools aren’t in session.

It’s that families are stressed. Now you have online learning, along with food needs, along with economic needs.T

Those stressors exacerbate existing tendencies and existing problems. We actually have seen an 80 percent increase in abuse and suspected abuse cases between April 1 and July 7 here at Dayton Children’s.

The fear is real. The need for these kids to be seen and monitored whether it’s an in-person school or if it’s just a neighbor next door who sees them out in the playground or out in the backyard.

Everyone needs to be aware because we need to make sure that these kids are brought forward and are taken care of.

It’s the stress. For some, online schooling is going to be that stress. For others it’s going to be an economic stress. It’s very different per family. It’s not a one size fit all other than the fact that the child has to be put first.

“I don’t feel safe with the younger ones, especially”

Q: After five months of this crazy situation, how do you feel about this new school year? Angry? Hopeful? Overwhelmed? Driven?

Darlene Langhout, the parent of Beavercreek City School District students



I have one daughter who’s in high school and then I have two that are in elementary school. I chose the online option for my younger two.

I was disappointed in the options that were given to us, but I know that in this situation we’re all trying the best that we can and with the resources we have.

With me it’s a little bit more challenging I think.

I’m probably going to be working from home during the day and then homeschooling my two little ones in the evening.

And the challenge with that is my middle child, the 10 year old, she has special needs. She has dyslexia.

What she needs during the school day is a lot more than just some self-guided materials in school. We had a really hard time in the spring. And I think we’re one of those maybe families that we feel like we’re stuck in the spring. Summer was really long.

“There are certainly consequences out there.”

Question: A recent Children’s Hospital Association report says the number of child COVID cases rose significantly in July. But a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says kids who catch it are less likely to die or even have symptoms. What do we know for sure about COVID-19 risks for kids and what are we still learning?

Pediatrician David Roer, a member of the Centerville School Board.

The data shows that about 97,000 new cases of Covid in children have occurred over the last four weeks.

We’re seeing a 90 percent increase in the number of children that are getting COVID. The reality is that these kids tend to do very well, but again it’s fair also to say that this virus is not completely benign.

I don’t like to be a downer, but again the statistics show that things are not getting better among the children in this country.

One of the things people are worried about is the deaths associated with it and how much the children are affected by this. There have been about 90 deaths in children in the US just these last few months since this thing started.

A lot of people like to compare it to the flu and they say it’s not as bad as a flu.

In a year we usually see about 100 deaths in the pediatric population related to the flu. When you compare a few months of this with 100, compared to the flu for an entire season a year. This tends to be a little bit more serious. We’re in a situation where this is occurring where kids haven’t even gotten back to school yet, and haven’t co-mingled yet.

The odds are that these numbers are probably going to go up. We’re learning about the transmission rates in children. Those 10 years and above are transmitting them as equally transmittable as adults. We know that the younger kids have multiple times the number of virus within the nasal passages. We don’t know the transmission rate of these kids and how they’re going to pass it on and we also don’t know what the long term consequences are of this disease. There are things that are coming out.

You hear about the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in little ones. We hear about that recently with Ohio State, the Big Ten closing down about those athletes with myocarditis and developing illnesses.

I’m not going to overemphasize it, but most of these kids do very well. But I don’t think we want to be sort of sleeping on the fact that it’s okay. There are certainly consequences out there.

“We need to take this very seriously”

Jeff Cooper, health commissioner for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County'

Obviously Montgomery County remains at risk level three, red in terms of the state’s public health advisory system.

That means that there’s high spread and high exposure potential. We’re hovering somewhere around 95 to 100 cases per 100,000 population.

When you look at the across the state, Montgomery County has the fifth highest number of Covid cases among the 88 counties in Ohio. We are the top five.

If you look at our cases in children ages zero to 19 for Montgomery County, we have the highest percentage of cases, compared to the other populated urban areas of the state.

About 11.8 percent of our cases are in ages zero to 19. One of the questions was, well, we noticed this increased specifically since June and July and that’s true for Montgomery County as well.

We’ve had over a 300 percent increase in total cases since June 1.and if you look at ages zero to 19, over that time period, since June 1, we had 53 cases total prior to June one in that age group. We’re now at 432 cases since June 1.

From June one through July 1, that’s a 700 percent increase. We need to take this very seriously.

“It is hopeful”

Q: Are there things that give you hope that we will pull through this as a community?

Samil Pullen, a Dayton Public Schools parent and co-founder of Parents, Teachers, Staff, and Drivers against unsafe school opening.

Shannon (Cox) mentioned all the things that have been happening in the area lately from the tornadoes to the mass shooting. And I’ve seen in all of these situations people looking out for people and coming together as a community. Not just family and friends, but strangers.

I’ve seen people start to make groups that put food items together to give out. I’ve seen churches giving out food and clothes and I’ve seen just random people get together on Facebook and decide to do something.

I think we are and have been coming together as a community. I think that on the subject of returning to school during Covids, it is the same thing.

I’ve been sharing tips on how my son did well last quarter. I’ve seen other parents doing it, panels like this and then those real ‘help’ kind of things like putting together food items. I’ve seen people buy other people school supplies. I’ve seen a lot. I think that we are coming together as a community. Yes, I think it is hopeful.

“We know as educators, simply how kids are”

Q: Two-thirds of teachers surveyed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers said they would be most comfortable starting the school year fully online. How dangerous is in-person classroom instruction for teachers and other school employees, and what should be done to help ensure their safety?

David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association, the union that represents teachers, nurses and other certificated employees at Dayton Public Schools.



While I can’t refer to that (survey) specifically because our district is an Ohio Education Association district, I can say that those survey results mirrored pretty closely results that came from a survey that we did with our members in DPS back in July.

Overwhelmingly, the top concern was for students, staff, family and community safety. That was also reflected in the excuse me results of the, of the OFT survey.

One of the large concerns was with masking, and the ability to adhere to the fidelity of that masking particularly with younger children.

We know as educators, simply how kids are.

We could see situations where kids would come in and, ‘hey, your mask is fun, wanna trade.’

Scenarios like that while we’re trying to provide instruction at the same time, and follow all the CDC guidelines at the same time were concerning as we begin to approach thinking about the school year. That along with being able to adequately socially distance at school, along with the Montgomery County health guidelines and the CDC guidelines. What the PPE looked like. What adequate ventilation looked like. And then, consistency of education.

And by that I mean, if we were going to start school in person, and then have potentially a COVID case pop up and have to shut down an individual school or a couple of individual schools in the district, what did that consistency of education look like in those cases. We had our staff extremely concerned about that as we began to approach the school year.

Human resilience is human resilience. Right?

Q: How can you get kids, especially the youngest ones, to wear mask?

Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center

Human resilience is human resilience. Right?

With a little practice, you can teach young dogs and old dogs new tricks. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be junior high behavior.

We just keep practicing. We just keep making it part of what we do and it becomes the new norm. I said time and time again, the norm of 2018, the normal 2019, the norm of seven months ago, we’re not going to see that norm again. That isn’t that isn’t here.

This pandemic has changed life forever. But the good news is, we get to be the architects of what it looks like post Covid. So maybe this will do some intentional work on hygiene in general and good healthy habits.

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