HUDSON – A state representative is asking questions citizens have sent him, and through virtual meetings, he has a teacher, a doctor, and other experts providing answers.
State Rep. Casey Weinstein, District 37 (D-Hudson) is hosting virtual town halls focusing on educating constituents on COVID-19 related topics and has expert guests answering questions on his Facebook page, both live and with recorded messages.
"It’s important to me to have active communication with my constituents," Weinstein said. "We all have questions, fears and uncertainty about the future, and I believe it is my job to help in whatever way I can during this time."
On April 25, Weinstein featured Stow-Munroe Falls School District second-grade teacher Amanda Mormino, who has taught at Indian Trail Elementary School for 20 years and has four children in the Hudson City School District.
"We’ve had to become educators and had a lot of request about education," said Weinstein, a father of two. "Learning is a life-long activity."
While teaching from home and seeing into student’s homes with zoom calls, Mormino has formed a special relationship.
"I meet siblings and see kids in their special places and areas where they are most comfortable," Mormino said. "I feel we’ve created a bond."
Because of Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to keep schools closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year, students and teachers won’t meet in person.
"This has been heartbreaking for all teachers and students," Mormino said. "I never imaged the school year ending like this and not having to say good-bye like we normally do."
With four children at home, Mormino said parents need to take breaks and be gentle and patient.
"No day has gone as planned since being home," she said. "The best piece of advice is to do your best each day but your best day to day will look different."
Mormino keeps her students’ attention by making each day look special. She’s recorded some videos of herself teaching and gives her students online resources when introducing a new skill.
Weinstein asked about students falling behind.
"Any teacher will tell you we’re not worried," Mormino said. "At the start of new school year, we will meet our students where they are at [academically] and move forward from there."
Learning new things and finding out what works and doesn’t is important, Mormino said.
"For kids who struggle with online learning, reach out to the teacher," Mormino said. "Every child’s needs are different and there may be struggles along the way."
Most of Stow teachers have office hours when parents can contact them directly in addition to email and phone numbers, she said. Parents can tell teachers what is working and what is not.
Another way parents can help is by reinforcing lessons with something at home. Mormino’s daughter in kindergarten was learning about measuring things for math. While cooking supper, her husband had measuring cups out and helped her see the concrete act of measuring connected with the abstract concept.
"We were cooking a meal at home and applying some things that have been talked about in the video to a real-life situation," Mormino said. "There’s a lot of benefits to that."
On April 20 the Zoom town hall featured Ohio physician and fellow State Representative Beth Liston, District 21 (D-Dublin), who is fighting COVID-19 on the front lines.
"I’ve been actively volunteering in the community trying to do my part during this crisis, and what I am hearing from everyone is that open and frequent communication from our state’s leaders is reassuring and brings them comfort," Weinstein said.
Liston cares for people admitted to the hospital, and a large number of people are dealing with COVID-19, she said. Practice social distancing, and If you have symptoms that concern you, call your doctor, health care provider or health hot line.
Liston said not to ignore real health issues that are not COVID-19.
"The hospitals are cleaned and everyone is wearing a mask so still go to hospital if you’re having a major health issue that isn’t COVID-19," she said.
She said the virus can be spread by either touching something with COVID-19 on it and then touching your face or through droplets from coughs and sneezes that contain the virus.
Hand washing and not touching your face prevent the first way and wearing a mask helps with the second way of spreading the virus.
"Most masks prevent droplets from going very far," she said. "It won’t prevent breathing in tiny droplets, but if you cough, you’re not spreading the droplets."
By staying six feet apart, washing hands and wearing a mask, the chances of spreading the virus decreases, Liston said.
Testing is key to opening up, she said. The key points are test, trace and isolate.
"If we can’t test everyone and figure out who is sick, then everyone has to stay home," Liston said. "We must test more broadly to find out who is sick and isolate them and trace who they may have spread it to and isolate them. We need to be doing a million tests a week and that’s a conservative number."
The other part is being prepared with enough masks, beds, ventilators, staff and safety precautions, she said.
"People have been working on it in Ohio," Liston said. "We have beds in place for a surge."
Weinstein said he will continue using a virtual town hall format and bring in experts and people to interview.
"We want to maintain contact and be responsive and you can’t do that in person today so we’re using virtual town halls to reach our constituents and address their concerns," Weinstein said. "It comes down to accessibility, communication and addressing concerns that my constituents may have."
The Ohio State House has been closed down for a month but committees start up next week and then will move to the house floor, Weinstein said. Voting sessions are determined on a weekly basis and they are looking at distancing members.
Weinstein is on the energy and natural resources; armed services and veteran affairs; and agriculture and rural development committees. District 37 includes the northwest part of Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Macedonia, Munroe Falls, Northfield Center and Northfield Village, Reminderville, Silver Lake, Stow, Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township.
Previous town halls can be viewed on Rep. Casey Weinstein’s public facebook/Instagram/Twitter tag @RepWeinstein
The next planned Zoom town hall is a youth-focused one in May The date will be announced.
More resources for parents on education, including downloadable coloring sheets are available at www.caseyforohio.com/education
The COVID-19 call center will be open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org