School COVID numbers rise; several schools go back online

Students are back in class at the Fairmont Career Tech Center in Kettering. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Students are back in class at the Fairmont Career Tech Center in Kettering. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

COVID-19 cases reported by local K-12 schools continued their week after week rise according to Thursday’s data, and the issue is having an increasing impact on schools' operations.

Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday showed that Dayton-area schools reported 239 new COVID cases last week (151 students and 88 school staff), up from 210 and 125 the previous two weeks.

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In the past week, West Carrollton, Chaminade Julienne, Huber Heights and Troy schools moved some or all students back to online learning. Vandalia-Butler will go online Nov. 16-24, and Trotwood announced it will go fully online after Thanksgiving break.

And several schools that have stayed open are struggling with busing as drivers are forced into COVID quarantine. Fairborn will not bus any students until after Thanksgiving, and Kettering schools told families to “be prepared in the event that transportation might not be available for your child.”

Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday that K-12 schools “are doing a phenomenal job” with anti-COVID measures, and he thinks as a whole, children are better off in school than learning remotely.

“But the fact is your local school will not be able to stay open if it can’t keep teachers in the classroom and bus drivers in buses (because of cases and quarantines),” DeWine said. “We must wear our masks … what you do in the community impacts whether our kids will be able to stay in school.”

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Statewide, the number of new COVID cases reported by schools last week was 2,723, up from 1,776 and 1,281 the previous two weeks, according to ODH.

The local school districts that reported the highest number of new cases last week were Miamisburg with 20 (14 students, 6 staff), Lebanon with 13 (7 students, 6 staff), Beavercreek with 12 (9 students, 3 staff), and Centerville, Dayton and Huber Heights with 10 each.

There also continued to be issues with delays in data reporting.

Last Thursday, the ODH data listed Preble Shawnee schools as having reported only two cases since Labor Day. This week’s report shows nine new cases, but it says that brings the district’s cumulative total to 39 cases, meaning the district had 28 cases at some point that were never reported as “new.”

The ODH data released each Thursday is on a lag from last week, and several schools have already reported major increases this week that don’t show up yet in the ODH dashboard.

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Letters to Lebanon High School parents Monday through Wednesday announced 17 new cases tied to the school. Since Friday, Oakwood schools have reported 13 new positive cases (nine students and four staff members) at three different school buildings.

Even schools that are still in-person are preparing for possible changes. Brookville schools, which have been open five days a week since mid-August, posted a video last Friday explaining in detail what will happen in case the district has to go fully online abruptly.

At Carroll High School, which is back in-person after a two-week online period in October, school officials said they’re closely watching public health data and weighing the pros and cons of blended and hybrid models.

“No decisions have been made about changing our current learning model, but we are preparing for multiple scenarios that would force us to make changes,” Principal Matt Sableski said Thursday.

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The Emerson, Pathway and North Dayton charter schools — all of which are on hybrid schedules today — will do fully remote learning the first week after Thanksgiving break and the first week after Christmas break.

Dayton Christian, which was one of the first schools to commit to in-person classes for this fall, is staying that way, but also moving junior high and high school grades to a full block schedule after Thanksgiving. Spokeswoman Julie Thompson said school leadership has built in a “flex week” for early 2021 to use if COVID cases “get to a point where staffing is not sustainable.”

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