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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 In-Person Attendance Drops Below 70%, COVID Still Impacting Students & Staff

Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 4, 2020 meeting)

In-person attendance across Cincinnati Public Schools continues to drop as the semester continues. COVID-19 cases are also rising amongst students and staff.

Thirty-two students across CPS have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to in-person learning last month. Since the district began tracking cases in May, 39 in total have tested positive, according to the most recent data available on Nov. 5. At least 600 students have had to isolate across CPS schools due to being in contact with someone who was infected. Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Trimble-Oliver said six classrooms in the district have had to switch to distance learning due to a positive COVID case.

"Those are typically specialized classrooms, preschool classrooms or kindergarten classrooms, which we are following our procedures," Trimble-Oliver said. "When there are challenges to ensuring that six-foot distancing was followed at all times, then that would call for a switch to distance learning."

Forty-seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to in-person learning; 124 in total have tested positive since CPS began tracking in May. Cincinnati Federation of Teachers president Julie Sellers said CPS was having three positive cases per week, but now they’re identifying that many cases per day.

"I really think that it's time that schools look at these numbers and the impact that it is having because with the number of quarantines, it's getting really difficult to make sure that all classrooms are covered," Sellers said.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 4, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 4, 2020 meeting)

Nearly 400 students across Cincinnati Public Schools have been tested for COVID-19 since returning to in-person learning.

At least 70 students across various Hamilton County school districts have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week.

Attendance Dropping

In-person attendance dropped to as low as 68.5% across CPS last week. This is the second week in a row that this trend has been reported.

Credit Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 4, 2020 meeting)
Cincinnati Public Schools (screenshot from Nov. 4, 2020 meeting)

While in-person learning is reporting low attendance, distance learning has seen an attendance rate of 87.6%. That percentage was also seen in the blended learning attendance rate.

According to the 2019-2020 Ohio School Report Card, students had an attendance rate of 93.6%.

Mental Health

COVID-19 has brought many changes to Cincinnati Public Schools this semester, including a blended learning model which has been in place for nearly a month. The changes across CPS this year hasn’t just caused stress for parents, but for students.

Keshawn Townshend is a senior at Aiken High School. He said he’s struggled with virtual learning for the past three months due to his mental health.

"I really feel like COVID and all, we need to focus on our mental health because when we're in a crisis, we immediately go into fight or flight, and I feel like that's where a lot of decisions are being made right now," Townshend said.

Townshend said his grades have been going up since seeking help from a therapist. Parents have pointed to COVID anxieties as a reason why they're not sending kids to in-person classes.

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