Few schools remain online, but Dayton won’t go back until March

Dayton Public Schools staff work to keep cafeteria tables clean and sanitized at River's Edge Montessori School in November 2020. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Dayton Public Schools staff work to keep cafeteria tables clean and sanitized at River's Edge Montessori School in November 2020. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

New CDC report says COVID spread in schools is limited

Only six of the Dayton area’s 40-plus public school districts are still doing classes primarily online, and while Xenia students will go back in-person Monday, Dayton has announced they won’t do so until March.

Trotwood will bring back younger students Feb. 16 and grades 6-12 on March 1. Dayton and Northridge won’t be in-person until March, and Yellow Springs hopes to be hybrid in March, but is basing that return on weekly COVID case data. Jefferson Twp. schools are staying online for the whole school year.

Nearly all local schools are offering a fully online option for those families uncomfortable returning to school in-person.

Dayton’s decision

Dayton Public Schools had planned to start in-person classes Feb. 22, but now will restart on an unspecified March date “after all DPS employees who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine have had their second dose.”

DPS officials said employees will receive their first shot of the two-dose vaccine Feb. 4-5. Shannon Cox, superintendent of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, said districts like Dayton that are working with Kroger Pharmacy will get their second doses exactly three weeks later, which is Feb. 25-26.

ExploreLocal list: Which schools are in-person 5 days a week, 2 days, or not at all

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said Wednesday that she would not commit to a firm March 1 restart.

“Once we are sure that vaccines arrive on schedule, we will announce a new open date,” she said.

Lolli said she does not anticipate push-back from the state, saying the Ohio Department of Education is offering some flexibility on the March 1 date. ODE would not comment Wednesday.

Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato said DPS “signed the form to be eligible to get vaccinated, so that is their commitment on returning to in-person or hybrid by March 1.”

On Tuesday, the CDC released a data review downplaying schools’ role in spreading COVID-19. The review said in-school transmission does happen, but at a much lower rate than outside of schools, where masking and other safety steps are less enforced. The review said indoor school sports, on the other hand, have been shown to increase COVID transmission risk.

Asked why Dayton schools wouldn’t commit to opening classrooms sooner, given that CDC information, Lolli said, “We want everyone to feel safe and confident that school can open face to face.”

ExploreJefferson Twp. schools not coming back in-person this school year

Last week, Dayton’s teachers union, along with those in Ohio’s other big-city school districts, criticized Gov. Mike DeWine’s move to tie educators’ vaccine availability to schools going back in-person March 1.

“Our members, our students and their families, and our cities will face dire consequences if schools are pressured to reopen before it is safe to do so,” said the unions’ statement, which was signed by Dayton teachers union President David Romick, among others.

Lolli said Dayton’s employee unions did not specifically push her for a later in-person start.

Xenia schools

The schools will re-open for regular five-day-a-week classes on Monday, carefully following safety protocols. Superintendent Gabriel Lofton said the district went online in January to minimize the impact of holiday-season COVID spread, to monitor the newly emerging COVID strain, and to minimize the interruptions of students and staff bouncing in and out of quarantine.

“Our family-choice model, where students either learn entirely online or in a classroom five days per week has the benefit of giving families a choice based on the needs of their child,” Lofton said, adding that having some students fully online helps with social distancing in schools.

Trotwood schools

Students in preschool through fifth grade will go back to school buildings Feb. 16, with older students returning March 1, All grades will be in-person four days a week.

“We had struggles with staffing in October when we tried to return to in-person two days a week,” Superintendent Reva Cosby said. “We had no reason to think it would be better (in January).”

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Cosby said online student attendance has been slightly lower this year, but she expressed confidence in the quality of learning overall. Like Lofton in Xenia, Cosby said vaccine availability in February played a role in the decision to return.

“The biggest goal and concern are the same, to keep everyone safe,” she said.

Yellow Springs schools

The district plans to return to hybrid in-person classes by March 1, but is basing that return on Greene County hitting 3 of 5 data indicators on COVID case numbers. Last week, none of those indicators hit the school district’s target levels.

Superintendent Terri Holden said virus spread, staffing concerns and a desire for consistency all played roles in Yellow Springs staying online for now. She expressed surprise that DeWine tied school vaccine availability to in-person school, “given that superintendents were told multiple times to make the best decision for their community.”

“Our decision to remain virtual until numbers improved also came after surveying our staff and parents/families for a second time,” Holden said. “Residents of Yellow Springs as a whole believe in science and take COVID safety requirements very seriously.”

Northridge schools

Northridge schools will wait until March 1 to return to in-person classes, to “allow our staff to receive vaccinations prior to the return of students,” Superintendent Dave Jackson said in a message to families this month. Jackson said attendance continues to be a concern, as does a shortage of substitute teachers.

Northridge Local Schools displayed positive messages to students, families, and the community along Dixie. Northridge has been 100% virtual for the 2020-2021 school year and wanted to show appreciation for all that the families have been doing during this time.
Northridge Local Schools displayed positive messages to students, families, and the community along Dixie. Northridge has been 100% virtual for the 2020-2021 school year and wanted to show appreciation for all that the families have been doing during this time.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Grades K-3 will return to full five-day-a-week classes March 1. Jackson said grades 4-12 will only be in-person four days a week for half-days, because 50% of students in those grades chose to stay online. Teachers will use the other half of those four days to teach online students. Fridays will be online for all in grades 4-12, to allow for individual instruction, intervention and/or enrichment.

“Simply put, we have chosen to take the most cautious approach to the return to school,” Jackson said. “Since over 40% of our students (all grades combined) are choosing remote, it has been important to fully develop our remote offerings as well.

Jefferson Twp. schools

Jefferson, as reported Tuesday, will remain online for the entire school year because of COVID concerns.

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