Schools make temporary switch to remote learning amid COVID-19 quarantines

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) – Days into the start of the new school year, several districts are switching to remote learning because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

It comes amid widespread quarantines as the virus spreads in classrooms where students and staff are not wearing masks.

“Obviously, this is not how we wanted to start the school year, just a couple days in,” Sandusky City Schools superintendent and CEO Dr. Eugene Sanders said in a video message to district families Sunday.

He announced that Sandusky High School and Sandusky Middle School were switching to remote learning this week as COVID cases rose among school district staff. Masks remain optional in the district, but Sanders said the school reserves the right to change its mask policy.

“We are making these decisions because we believe it is in the best interest of our faculty and staff and our students and the Sandusky City Schools,” he said.

The Lexington Local Schools and Crestline Exempted Village Schools, near Mansfield, also announced plans this week to temporarily switch to remote learning.

Crestline superintendent Matt Henderson said there were 20 confirmed COVID cases among students and four among staff Wednesday, with resulting quarantines affecting about 200 students, or about 30 percent of the student population.

“We were anticipating being able to return to normal, and that didn’t happen,” Henderson said. 

He said the switch to remote learning was necessitated by logistical challenges in finding enough substitute teachers to cover for staff out due to illness or quarantine.

“Like many public school districts, we do our best work when the kids are sitting in our classrooms,” he said.

The Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools moved three Highland Elementary School classes to remote learning because of cases and began requiring masks in the school building. While the district is not requiring masks district wide, superintendent Joelle Magyar sent a letter to parents this week reminding them that masks are strongly encouraged.

“We were able to greatly minimize the number of those who were required to quarantine in this case, because individuals chose to wear a mask,” she said in the letter.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide — fueled by the delta variant — districts that have chosen against requiring masks in classrooms are facing widespread quarantines among students exposed to cases under Ohio Department of Health guidelines.

“If a child has a mask, regardless of their vaccination status, it’s likely they would not have to quarantine, and we would not have the large numbers of students that are out right now, or staff, for that matter,” Henderson said of the state’s guidance.

Some school districts are now reconsidering mask policies. The Wadsworth City Schools Board of Education re-instituted a mask mandate effective Wednesday after more than 500 students had to quarantine following 74 COVID cases among students.

Henderson said he plans to ask the Crestline School Board to consider a mask mandate – at least temporarily – to try to keep students in classrooms.

“To see if that has the intended impact of being able to keep students and staff in the building,” he said, “Which is our ultimate goal.”

Last year, the state required all students to wear masks in school, but that decision has now been left to local school districts. 

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