Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Despite pandemic, Akron’s kids need some classroom time to avoid academic harm

Akron Beacon Journal

Nov. 1

It’s time for Akron’s schools to welcome students back at least part time for the first time in nearly eight months.

We don’t offer those words lightly, realizing the Akron Public Schools board, administration and teachers face a challenging dilemma amid a worsening pandemic. There are no clear answers or guaranteed results. Staff also oppose returning for understandable reasons in many cases.

But we’re increasingly concerned — as district employees surely are, too — about the long-term academic damage children are facing by remaining outside of the classroom.

This is true in any district, but especially concerning in Akron where schools also provide a safe haven for many children facing challenges at home in normal times. As Beacon Journal education reporter Jennifer Pignolet wrote last week, “... the weight of the responsibilities of work, family and online school during a pandemic is crushing” some families.

To their credit, APS leaders have done incredible work capitalizing on prior technology investments to keep students connected to their teachers since COVID-19 first closed schools in March. They’ve dispatched employees to connect with children who don’t log into online courses or make contact about 700 times just this fall. Overall attendance is barely below a normal year.

Unfortunately, there’s also discouraging news from recent one-on-one reading assessments showing only one-third of elementary students moved up a reading level, a drop from nearly two-thirds who made similar gains in 2019. And 12% dropped a level.

That doesn’t mean the current online efforts are failing.

It does support the board’s welcome decision Monday to reopen classrooms to those students most in need of in-person instruction, with teachers willing to work face-to-face selecting the students. That’s an understandable first step now set to begin Nov. 30. It’s also a service that could have been in place when school resumed this fall.

Yes, there were many questions, challenges and unknowns facing schools that did reopen. Nor was there consensus on reopening among parents and teachers, although giving families a choice between online and some form of in-person instruction provided reasonable alternatives.

We now know — based on the comments from public health leaders — that in-person classes conducted with proper safety protocols have not been a significant spreader of COVID-19. Instead, it’s the casual gatherings of students and extracurricular activities where safety is either forgotten or more difficult.

Oddly, Akron’s board allowed fall extracurriculars after a back-and-forth debate. Every other public district in Summit County is now back in school.

With the pandemic now growing worse and Ohio setting near-daily records for new cases, one has to wonder if Akron missed its best opportunity to safely complete in-person classes at least a few days a week this fall.

Regardless, the risks of children falling further behind carries significant weight despite the risks posed by COVID-19. It’s time for a board that’s struggled with picking and sticking with a plan to err on the side of educating kids with a targeted effort that addresses both educational needs and safety.



Vote, be patient, respect the outcome

Cincinnati Enquirer

Oct. 30

America could soon face an electoral test not seen since hanging chads and lawsuits kept the nation waiting for weeks after Election Day to learn whether Vice President Al Gore or Texas Gov. George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election. While the country won’t have to worry about hanging or pregnant chads in this election, it’s likely that Americans will go to bed Tuesday night without knowing who the next president will be. And with the challenges of a global pandemic, a turnout like no one has seen in years and scores of mail-in absentee ballots, it could be days or weeks before Joe Biden or Donald Trump is officially declared the winner.

Americans displayed great patience while waiting in sometimes hours-long lines to vote. That same patience and calm will be needed as we wait for millions of ballots to be counted and certified. Everyone wants their vote to count, and it is more important for our country to have accurate results than a fast one.

Voters should trust their county boards of elections, which have spent months preparing for this election, to process all the ballots and do an accurate count. These boards across Greater Cincinnati have already done an excellent job of conducting early voting under unique circumstances and a lot of scrutiny. They deserve our appreciation and thanks.

It’s also important to remember that local Democrats and Republicans in our counties work together to conduct and monitor the electoral process. So contrary to claims by some politicians, rigging the system would be incredibly difficult with each party so closely watching the other.

And while we wait, be wary of disinformation. The FBI has already warned the nation about efforts from Iran, Russia and China to undermine Americans’ confidence in our elections system. And unfortunately, there are forces inside this country that wish to weaken and dismantle our core institutions. The internet and social media are sure to be littered with real fake news and propaganda designed to sow doubt, distrust and discord. Find reputable and trusted news outlets or fact-checkers to get your information from and be suspicious of any sources declaring victory prematurely.

Elected officials at the national, state and local levels, Republican and Democrat, must resist the temptation to engage in partisan attacks on our elections processes, declaring a winner before its official or spewing divisive rhetoric that could incite people. Our nation is in a very delicate place and people are emotionally on edge. This is a time for thoughtfulness and patriotism, not partisan politics.

Not only must we be patient with the process, but how we react to the election results might be most important of all. Roughly half of the nation is going to be disappointed with the final results of the election. But no matter how we feel about the outcome, accepting the results as valid is a time-honored cornerstone of our democracy and the key to a peaceful transfer of power.

Some may want to protest the outcome, which would be their constitutional right. But do so peacefully. The threat of lawsuits by both political parties loom if the election is too close, which would be their legal right. But don’t be frivolous.

Whether Trump or Biden wins the presidency, we have to unify as a country. And we can’t leave that up to the politicians. Each of us has to take responsibility. Neighbor has to look neighbor in the eye, offer a friendly wave over the fence and reconcile.

We have to stop the kind of nasty, divisive and dehumanizing rhetoric that led up to this election. Whoever wins, we must respect the result, acknowledge a contentious, hard-fought campaign and move forward. There are too many important issues facing our country to continue down the same divided road of the past four years. We must still defeat the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken over 227,000 lives, rebuild our economy and get more Americans back to work, restore our crumbling infrastructure and address issues of racism, social justice and climate change. There’s work to do, and we must get it done together.

Spending four more years relitigating another election would do nothing except insure our country’s downward spiral. We can’t possibly “Build Back Better” or “Make America Great Again” by endlessly being at each other’s throats. We the People can’t form a more perfect union if we aren’t unified. As a nation, we have to be able to say to Trump or Biden, “you won, and I need your side to succeed.”

That’s the only way we come together. That’s the only way this election doesn’t break our country. Americans were able to do that after a close, contentious and controversial election in 2000. So when the dust settles and a winner emerges, don’t look to Joe Biden or Donald Trump to unify us. Look in the mirror.



Not in our community

The Toledo Blade

Nov. 2

Bogey the “pit bull,” is now living the best life a dog can live. He is loved, he is well fed, he wants for nothing. But it almost did not turn out this way.

When Bogey was rushed to the veterinarian by Lucas County Pit Crew rescuers last December he weighed a mere 18 pounds, he smelled like death, and he was so severely starved and dehydrated that one of his eyes had ruptured. He was so near death and so weak he could not lift his head.

An investigation by the Lucas County Humane Society led to criminal charges against Bogey’s previous owner, Ashley Roderick, 30.

Rescuers had found Bogey on a urine-soaked pillow in a basement cage at her home with no access to food or water, leading Lucas County Judge Lindsay Navarre to order a mental health evaluation of the woman. After all, what sane person could be so cruel?

But this week the judge revealed that Ms. Roderick was not mentally ill when she abused the dog; she was just cruel. And though the defense attorney requested a sentence of probation in exchange for her client’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, Judge Navarre sentenced Ms. Roderick to the maximum possible sentence of not less than 180 days at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.

“Bogey would have been better off wandering the street, eating from dumpsters, than he was in your care — or, quite frankly, lack thereof,” Judge Navarre said.

The judge also ordered Ms. Roderick to pay restitution for Bogey’s nearly $4,000 in vet bills.

Cases of horrific cruelty must be taken seriously, as Judge Navarre clearly took this case.

How we treat defenseless creatures says everything about us as humans and about our community as a society.

Judge Navarre’s harsh sentence in this case should send a message.

Lucas County will not tolerate wanton abuse of animals and people who abuse creatures like Bogey will face severe punishment.

Now healthy and happy, Bogey can live a good life because this judge and this community will not accept cruelty to defenseless animals like him.



Reconsider terms spelled out in PFR

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

Nov. 2

How is it possible for Congress to approve as much as $3.3 trillion in pandemic-related aid to Americans — the amount already provided — without ensuring at least that the health care network was made whole?

It is, apparently.

Nearly 240 members of Congress have signed a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar regarding a change made in one aspect of the relief funding program. It is the Provider Relief Fund.

The idea behind the PRF was just what the name implies — aiding the health care network to keep providers safe and to ensure they and their facilities could continue serving patients. As one lawmaker put it, the PRF “helped enable providers to keep their doors open during these challenging times.”

It has been pointed out that many health care facilities, including hospitals, were on shaky financial ground before COVID-19 increased the strain. No doubt the PRF funding was welcome — and needed.

But at least some of it may have to be returned. As the lawmakers put it in their letter to Secretary Azar, changes in the program “could force many hospitals and other providers to return some of this vital funding and jeopardize patients’ access to care while the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Azar is being asked merely to rescind the change in PRF rules, putting them back to where they were when many health care providers obtained help through the program.

Obviously, COVID-19 relief funding cannot be merely handed out to all comers. Eventually, some will be able to repay the money.

But the epidemic has placed enormous strains on many health care providers. Changing the PRF rules in what amounts to a deadly “game” that continues to threaten the lives of many Americans makes no sense.

Surely Azar realizes the dangerous folly of implementing new repayment demands on health care provider. The change should be reconsidered.



Scouts can still help with the election

The Marietta Times

Nov. 2

Though the world has been turned upside down for months, there is one thing that remains the same as we approach Tuesday’s general election: Local Scouts will be doing what they can to help.

Scouts BSA Troops 203 and 216 have for the past several years lent a little muscle to the election night effort by helping unload equipment from Washington County poll workers’ cars.

“We have anywhere from 10 to 20 scouts (that help),” said Butch Hawkins, institutional representative for Troop 203. “It used to be about three boys to unload a car. That was before the electronic (voting). It may not take that many now.”

Though Board of Elections Deputy Director Karen Pawloski says the Scouts’ task will be a little different this year, it is no less important. They will be unloading poll books — and absentee ballots.

As valuable as their help will be Tuesday evening, the Scouts are learning something equally valuable. They are finding out they are not too young to be of help, to be engaged in our democratic process; and that when one means of making a difference changes, there is often another way to do so.

Kudos to the Scouts — and those guiding them — for tackling an important job and helping us all feel a little more confident that our future is in good hands.