Some Ashtabula County schools move to online learning with COVID-19 spike

Jefferson High School students, from left, Megan Brand and Taylor Skinner wear masks during the first day of classes in August. Jefferson High School students return to school Monday after a week of online instruction due to COVID-19 cases at the school.

Some Ashtabula County school districts have moved to an online learning model as COVID-19 cases surge, while others are attempting to continue in person learning according to school officials.

"Starting Monday we will return to our electronic learning plan that we started the year with. We will be back on the remote schedule and not on the hybrid schedule starting Monday," Ashtabula Area City Schools Superintendent Mark Potts wrote in a letter to families on Friday evening.

Potts said the decision was made to make the change after after more than 15,000 cases were reported in Ohio on Thursday and Friday.

"Our county and city have broken new records for that time spell as well," Potts said.

The original plan was to try and get to Thanksgiving but the increase in coronavirus cases made that impossible.

"We will go this route until after Thanksgiving with the possibility of returning to hybrid on November 30," said Potts, who added that all athletic practices and events are cancelled until at least Nov. 22.

The Buckeye Area Local School District has decided to go with fully remote learning starting Monday for the remainder of the year with hopes of returning to school on Jan. 4 if the COVID-19 case numbers have dropped enough, said Edgewood High School Principal Mike Notar.

"{Buckeye Superintendent] Mr. [Pat] Colucci did a 'robo' call last night [Friday]," Notar said.

Notar said the number of cases and the people in quarantine made the switch necessary. 

"We just decided it was in the best interest of the students and faculty," he said.

Notar said the schools had just completed the first full week of students being back in the physical building after full remote learning for the first marking period.

He said one of the challenges was finding enough substitute teachers because of staff unavailability for several reasons.

St. John School is hoping to complete this coming week of school with in-person learning then take an extended Thanksgiving break.

"It is really day by day. We are planning to be in school this week," said St. John School Principal Scott Plescia.

School officials are hoping to be back at school on Wednesday, Dec. 2 if all goes well.

"We have been in consultation with the Youngstown Diocese schools and this is what we have all agreed to," Plescia said.

In Conneaut, school officials decided to move to remote learning for the high school only after three reported COVID-19 cases among staff members there, according to a message posted by Conneaut Area City Schools Superintendent Lori Riley on the district website on N/ov. 10. She said the high school would remain on remote learning for two weeks.

Riley said that cleaning of the high school has been completed and staff would still be at the school for teaching during this time period. 

Grand Valley Local Schools Superintendent William Nye reported several staff COVID-19 infections at the school on Nov. 10 and asked families to prepare in case remote learning becomes necessary.

"I want everyone to be prepared to learn completely through remote programming. We all know what is best is to get our students in a normal brick and mortar school operations," Nye said.

He also said the school year has shown that students learn better with in-person instruction, but the virus may make that impossible.

"We have to be realistic and prepared for possible remote learning in the future if needed," Nye said.

Pymatuning Area Local Schools Superintendent Chris Edison is urging families, through the PV website, to maintain COVID-19 protocols so the district may continue to operate in-person classes.

"As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state of Ohio and Ashtabula County, the district wants to take time to remind our community of a few safety protocols to keep our physical buildings open for in person learning," Edison stated on Wednesday.

He asked parents to take their children's temperature before leaving for school and if it is higher than 100.4, they should not come to school. He said children should stay home if experiencing virus-related symptoms including chills, fever, and muscle soreness.

Geneva Area City Schools closed school on Friday due to staff shortages, not all COVID-19 related, with family illness, other infirmities and personal days, but intend to have normal school schedules on Monday, according to the district website.

The website also indicated school officials will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation over time and will change teaching plans if necsessary, according to a message posted two weeks ago as Ashtabula County COVID-19 numbers began to spike.

Jefferson Area Local Schools students have been in remote-learning mode at the high school for the last week after numerous students and staff COVID-19 infections, said Jefferson High School Principal Jeremy Huber. He said the elementary and junior high schools remained open.

The district intends to continue i- school learning Monday.

"We are back to school and hope to stay open as long as we can," Huber said.

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