Governor: Some schools take COVID vaccine, break promise to return to in-person learning

Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips Carter prepares vaccines to be given. Middletown City Schools employees were some of the first teachers in Ohio to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 27, 2021, at Middletown High School. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips Carter prepares vaccines to be given. Middletown City Schools employees were some of the first teachers in Ohio to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 27, 2021, at Middletown High School. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he diverted COVID-19 vaccines to K-12 school employees, but that some districts have broken their promise to return to in-person learning.

The governor said during a Friday evening media briefing that all but one of the state’s public school systems — Jefferson Twp. Schools in Montgomery County — committed to returning to hybrid or full in-person learning by March 1, which was a requirement for receiving the vaccines.

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“We have now completed vaccines in Cincinnati Public Schools. However, we have now learned that Walnut Hills (High School) will remain remote for the rest of this year,” DeWine said.

He said the commitment to return to hybrid or in-classroom education “was not just a commitment to me, but a commitment to the children.”

“This is not acceptable. This is about the kids,” DeWine said.

Students are falling behind, there are mental health issues as well due to kids not being in the classroom, he said.

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No local schools are among the ones DeWine accused.

In the Dayton area, 35 of 40 public school districts are already holding in-person classes while following several COVID safety protocols. Their models range from traditional five-day-a-week classes, to hybrid models where students mix online learning with two, three or four days in-person.

Tiny Jefferson Twp. Schools decided last month to stay online for the whole school year and thus did not get the vaccine for its staff.

Dayton, Trotwood, Northridge and Yellow Springs schools still plan to have students return to some form of in-person classes by March 1.

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Akron Schools, which also have received vaccines for its educators, said they do not plan to return to the classroom until March 15, which DeWine said is not acceptable either.

And in Cleveland Schools, there were different reports about whether they go back March 1 as promised.

Educators and employees of schools for kindergarten through 12th grades became eligible Feb. 1 to receive the coronavirus vaccine as part of the state’s Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout plan.

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Middletown City Schools employees on Jan. 27 became the first in the state to receive their first coronavirus vaccine dose.

DeWine said the majority of schools have kept their commitment, and are doing even better than what the state has asked.

In December, 45% of schools were fully remote.

”Today, that number is less than 15% and we’re not even into March,” he said.

Staff Writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this report.

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