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CLEVELAND (WJW) – The rise in coronavirus cases statewide in recent days hasn’t spared school districts that have returned to in-person learning, some of which are grappling with cases among students and staff.

Classrooms were empty Monday in the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools after the district moved all students to virtual learning and suspended extracurricular activities due to coronavirus cases in several schools.

District spokesperson Catharine Beal said the situation would be discussed at a school board meeting Monday night and next steps determined in consultation with Lake County health officials.

In Shaker Heights, Woodbury Elementary was closed for cleaning Monday and Tuesday after a staff member tested positive. While students in the district are currently learning virtually, some staff was in the building to conduct remote lessons, according to district spokesperson Scott Stephens.

The district said in a letter to families that it’s awaiting guidance from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Stephens said the closure did not affect the district’s plans to begin phasing-in in-person learning starting later this month.

Meanwhile, the Parma City School District has not closed any schools due to coronavirus cases.

“We really want to actually phase back to fully in-person learning so we’re working hard to not close schools,” Superintendent Dr. Charlie Smialek said. “Closing schools would really be a last resort for us.”

While the district reported zero confirmed cases among its students, a staff member at Shiloh Middle School tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, and only that person was placed under isolation.

Smialek says he feels precautions including masks and hand washing are working, requiring minimal quarantines based on contact within six feet for more than 15 minutes.

The district is currently operating under a hybrid system of in-person and virtual learning. Despite school closures elsewhere, Smialek said plans are moving forward to transition to full in-person learning at the start of the second quarter in mid-November, as the Parma City School District continues to monitor coronavirus data in the district.

“It’s that day-to-day contact, that personal interaction that really can light that fire, spark that sense of imagination on behalf of students,” Smialek said. “That’s what we’re trying to maximize.”

The discrepancies among districts are largely because decisions on quarantines and closures are left up to each district.

“There really hasn’t been centralized guidance,” Smialek said. “We’ve been left to figure this out with our own teaching groups, with our own parent groups, with our own boards of education. When you have all those different dynamics you’re going to have many different decisions that have been made.”

While that means differences for how learning takes place, many districts have said they’re still aiming to have kids back in class, learning in-person as much as possible.

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