First area school closes due to teacher COVID-19 case

Fairborn Primary School will hold classes remotely until Oct. 5

Fairborn Primary School closed Wednesday and will move to remote learning for the next week and a half after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, Superintendent Gene Lolli said.

It is the first school in Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Warren or Preble County to close for COVID-19-related reasons after reopening this fall, according to county health departments.

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All other Fairborn schools remain open, but schools across the region are worried about the mandatory quarantine steps tied to COVID cases.

Lolli said Fairborn Primary School, which serves preschool through second grade, is closing because in addition to students, 8-10 teachers were exposed to the staff member who tested positive, and they now have to quarantine.

“There’s just no way we can get 8-10 substitute teachers in the building,” Lolli said. “We’re having trouble getting two. It’s really tough to get substitutes today.”

When local schools started reopening this fall, there was concern that many would quickly close again due to outbreaks, as happened in Indiana, Georgia and other states. But that has not been common in Ohio.

More than two dozen Dayton-area school districts offered families the choice of fully in-person classes or fully online education this fall. Many schools offering in-person classes (including some private schools) have reported COVID-19 cases in the past month, but the numbers have been relatively low.

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Beavercreek’s five cases and Springboro’s four were the highest numbers locally on the Ohio Department of Health school COVID dashboard released last week. A majority of schools and districts reported no cases Sept. 7-13. ODH updates that data weekly, with Sept. 14-20 data due Thursday afternoon.

Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said while case numbers are relatively low region-wide, conversations between local schools and health officials continue “hot and heavy.”

A key topic is how to handle 14-day quarantines for people who have had COVID exposure but have not tested positive, as well as 10-day isolations for those who tested positive without symptoms.

Cox said some schools are pushing for ways that students or staff in those categories could be able to return to school sooner.

She said nobody wants sick kids to come to school. But schools are also weighing the disruption of having dozens -- or in the case of the large Mason district even hundreds -- of people in and out of quarantine. That can affect students' continuity of education, families' ability to secure child care, and as Fairborn discovered, schools' ability to handle staffing.

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Cox said the Vandalia-Butler district is concerned about families already having to deal with a second round of quarantine in the first month of school.

Worries over students and staff bouncing in and out of quarantine was one of the reasons why Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County recommended schools in its county start the first quarter fully online.

Fairborn was one of many districts in the Dayton area that offered families the choice of fully in-person classes or fully online education this fall, with classes starting Sept. 8.

In a statement late Wednesday Lolli said the district is “committed to the safety and health of students and staff,” and is working closely with Greene County Public Health. Health department officials said 26 people connected to the school are being contacted for contact tracing purposes.

The district learned of the positive test late Tuesday night and sent a message to parents informing them that the school would be closed to in-person instruction Wednesday. Lolli urged families to contact their doctor if they experience COVID-19 symptoms and to follow CDC health guidelines.

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Fairborn Primary School students are currently slated to return to school Monday, Oct. 5. On Thursday, families can pick up paper packets with schoolwork for all students, as well as school breakfast and lunch.

Then next Monday and Tuesday, Chromebook computers will be available for pickup by first- and second-grade families, while younger students continue with paper assignments. Students will continue to work with their existing teachers.

Lolli said district leadership recognizes this is tough on both families and school staff, and will keep communicating regularly.

“We thought this would be in the best interests — we can get the building sanitized and given all the staff who have to be quarantined for 14 days,” Lolli said.