NORTHFIELD, Ohio — Getting back to school seemed like a blessing after the challenges of remote learning, but Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark at the Nordonia Hills City School District tells us that, a month in, it's come with all new battles with parents.
"The love that the teachers used to get for all that they were doing for kids is now turned to vitriol and anger about, 'How dare you take our freedoms away by making us wear masks,'" Clark told 3News.
We've seen the debate over masks play out in other districts, at school board meetings and online. Clark says Nordonia is on high alert after recent comments on Facebook, and the Cleveland FBI field office worked with local law enforcement to be sure no threats were made.
"I think every school district is going through it," Clark said. "It just causes me sadness that people that are dedicated to helping others have come under such attack."
He tries to encourage his teachers to focus past the fear and frustration to where it matters: the kids.
"I thank them as often as I can," he said. "I remind them that they're doing great things for kids. We have fantastic teachers who care about kids and are going to continue caring about kids and continue doing great things for kids, but frankly, they're going home a little more tired than they used to because of all of this extraneous stuff that they shouldn't have to worry about."
Clark adds it’s clear masks are keeping kids in school.
"Nobody wants to wear masks, but we know that it's the best thing to do because it's keeping kids in school," he stated. "The most important thing is that kids are in school every day, and if you have a mask on and you are sitting close to somebody who tests positive, you do not have to go into quarantine. Really simple answer: Put a mask on and you can stay in school."
In September, the district saw 50 positive cases of the coronavirus and had to quarantine 46 additional children. Compare that to last year, when on average 25 kids quarantined per positive case.
"Do the math: If this September happened last year, we would have had 1,200 kids placed in quarantine," Clark explained. "This year, 46, because our board took the brave step of requiring masks for our students."
Clark also has a message for state leaders he says put school boards and administrators between a rock and a hard place.
"What they don't see is they're tearing school districts apart," he said. "The way that things are currently being handled is being very destructive to school districts across the state of Ohio. Families and communities are being splintered because of the lack of leadership at the state level."