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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

CPS Sees Attendance Rates Falling For Students And Teachers

school desk

Cincinnati Public School students have been attending classes in-person for nearly three weeks now, but attendance is way lower than in previous years.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)

The drop in attendance last week could be due to fears families have over their kids contracting COVID-19. One student group just had slightly more than 70% of kids attending in-person classes.

Students aren’t the only ones with attendance issues. Human Resources Director Paul McDole said CPS is starting to see a trend of employee absences.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)

"We had over 500 staff members district-wide in all of our schools that we're out last Thursday," McDole said. "If you think about percentages, if I say that 8 percent of our teaching staff is out, that’s over 240 positions district-wide that we are then trying to fill."

According to the 2019-2020 Ohio School Report Card, CPS teachers had an attendance rate of 99.7%. Students had an attendance rate of 93.6%.

Distance Learning Enrollment

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Oct. 29, 2020 meeting)

While distance learning still remains an option for students, not very many are enrolled in it. Less than 10% of CPS students are participating in distance learning.

Lead Network Engineer Jeremy Gollihue said because more students are doing in-person learning, the network can't handle school-based distance learning.

"It has to be a specific balance between the two to meet the capacity," Gollihue said. "One grows, one shrinks; and there’s kind of a fine line there that if you go too far in either direction, then it overwhelms the need of the smaller or larger group."

At least 25% of students need to be in distance learning for the model to work. CPS says families should continue to enroll students in Cincinnati Digital Academy for a full-time remote option.

Hamilton Co. Could Go Purple

If Hamilton County goes purple on Thursday, CPS will have to consider making students fully remote again. CPS’s Board of Education will allow Superintendent Laura Mitchell to decide if students will be allowed to continue in-person learning.

Board President Carolyn Jones said this about keeping students and staff safe while remaining accountable.

"We said to the public, 'If we go purple, we're going to close,' " Jones said. "We said that, and I think if we don't close, we again lose more footing, more credibility with our community."

County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said on Wednesday the county is averaging nearly 210 cases a day. Cincinnati has had more than 7,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.