Hamilton Journal News

Shots, drop in cases yield school optimism

Butler County districts making plans to get children back in classroom, some 5 days a week.

- By Michael D. Clark Staff Writer

BUTLER COUNTY — For the first time in nearly a year area schools are getting a series of positive new developmen­ts about the ongoing challenges of trying to operate during a global pandemic.

Late last week saw staffers in many area school districts — including Lakota, Middletown and Fairfield and their combined enrollment­s of more than 33,000 students — receive the second of two coronaviru­s inoculatio­ns.

At the same time Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the number of positive coronaviru­s cases is showing enough of a declining trend that the state will soon be offering guidelines to schools about how — unlike last year — they may conduct modified school proms, graduation­s and other events this spring.

The latest weekly totals from Butler County school districts, supplied by the Ohio Department of Health, show a significan­t and relatively high number of area school systems are reporting no new COVID-19 cases among students or staffers.

Optimism

According to the latest state data, among the 55 Butler County public school districts and non-public school buildings, 40 report no new coronaviru­s cases among students in the week prior.

And 45 of those 55 districts and schools also reported no new cases among teachers and other school staffers during the same period.

All Ohio K-12 schools were shuttered in mid-March 2020 as the onset of the pandemic began to become widely known.

Schools remained closed through the spring, and this school year has seen local schools rollercoas­ter between a variety of schedules — including some districts in all remote learning for weeks — as districts reacted to fluctuatin­g jumps in the coronaviru­s spread.

Almost every aspect of school life was impacted last school year into the current 2020-2021 year, including sporting events, after-school extracurri­culars, in-school annual traditions like pep rallies, in-person competitio­ns and more.

But now there’s cause for optimism, said area school officials.

“We’re so excited what the second round (of vaccine injections) mean for our district and for our students,” said Middletown Schools Spokeswoma­n Elizabeth Beadle, who joined hundreds of other school employees in getting their second vaccine shot at the district’s high school Friday.

“And we’re going back five days,” she said in reference to Middletown’s recent decision to return to a normal, rather than hybrid schedule, on March 22.

Some districts last week switched to all remote learning for students for a two days to allow teachers to stay at home and deal with some of the side effects of the second injection, which has been reported by some as being substantia­l.

Holli Morrish, spokeswoma­n for Talawanda Schools, said “we certainly look forward to a time in the future when the pandemic is behind us.”

“Talawanda staffers have really stretched themselves this year, and although I know we have all learned some valuable lessons, techniques and strategies, the stress and additional work hours has been very intense for everyone,” said Morrish.

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