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Education

As some Tri-State schools go remote, others stay the course. Here are their reasons why

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COVID-19 cases continue rising throughout the region and that has led to staffing shortages in schools returning from winter break.

Despite this, many schools are eschewing remote learning and pushing forward with similar COVID measures in place from last semester. Ludlow Independent Schools began conducting daily tests for students last semester with help from Gravity Diagnostics. Once that happened, quarantines decreased. On top of that, 93% of the staff are fully vaccinated and a mask mandate is still in place for anyone entering school facilities.

Superintendent Mike Borchers says the community believes in the school district and the goal of keeping classes in-person.

"There's just no way to do the things that you usually do in-person," Borchers said. "You can't replace that teacher right in front of your students, so if we have some kids absent, we work really hard to catch them up, but we really want to keep kids in place here in the classroom."

Borchers says the district could switch to remote learning overnight if needed due to staffing issues. But he says the district has been extremely lucky for the precautions teachers have taken upon themselves during the pandemic.

"I don't think people realize it requires our teaching staff to kind of make some adjustments in their life," Borchers said. "When you walk outside of schools, you don't see masks out there so they may have not gone to a community gathering or to a family gathering at the end of the holidays just to make sure that they weren't exposed to be in school here for our kids. Same thing on the weekends. A lot of our folks are very careful with what they go out and do so that they know that they're going to be OK to be here at work all next week for the kids."

The district will be conducting a vaccine clinic for students ages 5 and up next Tuesday. At least 25 students are currently in quarantine and 22 are in the Test to Stay program. Kenton County, where the district is located, is currently reporting a 29.62% positivity rate.

Staff are 'tapped out'

Mason City Schools was one of the first schools to take part in the Ohio Department of Health's Test & Stay Program which allows students to quarantine within their school buildings.

The district recommends staff and students wear face masks. Previously, it required students and staff from first to sixth grade wear masks. At least 85% of the district's staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 and between 85-90% of students from first to sixth grade are wearing masks. However, only 30% of students between seventh and 12th grade are wearing masks.

In an update uploaded to YouTube Friday, Superintendent Jonathan Cooper said setting a mandate wouldn't be simple to implement.

"We then have to monitor, police and discipline for that [mandate]," Cooper said. "And that is difficult on a staff that's tapped out."

During an interview with WVXU Friday, Cooper said staffing has been an issue the entire semester. The district increased substitute pay from $85 per day to $100, and premium pay to $125. The district is currently accepting applications for substitute teachers.

As COVID-19 cases have gone up amongst staff, it has created difficulties with filling in the gaps. Teachers are giving up planning periods to cover other classes. Building administers are also subbing and executive staff have even been working in lunchrooms to fill absences.

"When you start to get to that level, that's not a long-term sustainable plan so that's where the challenge really lies," Cooper said.

He says the district does not plan to conduct remote learning this school year.

"Now if we had to, of course we would do what's best for kids, but that is not something that is in our initial plans right now looking forward," Cooper said. "We have other strategies in place I think that will allow us to not go to that level."

Currently, 128 students in the district are quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure and 163 are in isolation due to having tested positive.

Cincinnati Public Schools decision expected Monday

So far, eight schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools district have converted to remote learning. The CPS Board of Education will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss whether to convert the entire district to remote learning or conduct closures on a school-by-school basis.

Mt. Healthy City Schools transitioned to remote learning on Jan. 5. Newport Independent Schools are switching to NTI days between Jan. 7-14. Click here for a complete look at Tri-State schools plans regarding remote learning, courtesy of our news partner WCPO.

Local universities are also delaying the start of their spring semesters due to COVID.

The University of Cincinnati will transition online with plans to resume full in-person activities by Jan. 24. The university requires all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Northern Kentucky University has delayed the start of its spring semester by one week due to rising cases of COVID-19 within the region. All classes at NKU will begin Jan. 18. The university's indoor mask mandate will still be in effect.

Miami University is still planning on beginning its spring semester Jan. 24. Last week, Xavier University announced masks will be required indoors to begin the spring semester. It begins Jan. 10.

As of Jan. 6, Greater Cincinnati is reporting a COVID positivity rate of 30.1%.