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Cincinnati Public Schools to continue distance learning after Hamilton County returns to red status

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 23:12:11-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools will remain in their distance learning plan, the district announced in a news release Thursday.

That announcement arrived after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Hamilton and Clermont counties were again at the Ohio Department of Health’s second-highest alert level for COVID-19 cases.

“While we are extremely disappointed to have to make this decision, the right choice in this moment is to continue in our distance-learning model,” said superintendent Laura Mitchell. “We have said since spring that we would use data to guide decisions, and that the health and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority. As a large urban district, our families are more likely to be negatively impacted by the virus. In addition, with 36,000 students and 6,000 staff, the decisions we make exponentially impact the entire Cincinnati community.”

CPS planned to phase in a blended-learning model, which included in-person learning, as soon as Oct. 12.

“It’s just been a little overwhelming,” said CPS parent Shawna Russell-Cargille. “My son’s been frustrated. I was frustrated.”

Thursday’s news from the state turned that plan on its head just hours before a public meeting.

“Unfortunately, Hamilton County returns red this week,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. “The last time the county was red was July 30. During the past two weeks the county has had 737 new cases, an average of about 50 new cases per day, close to where the county has been most recently.”

Some school districts, like Cincinnati Public, are choosing to use the state’s color-coded system to determine whether to bring students back inside their buildings – but Hamilton County Health commissioner Greg Kesterman said businesses will remain untouched for now.

“There are no changes with regards to industries or sporting activities at this time,” he said.

Kesterman said Hamilton County backslid from orange to red due in large part to an increase in hospitalizations. He said that even though people are growing restless, they can’t relent in their fight against COVID-19.

“It’s critical and we are still really discouraging any kind of gatherings, whether it be family gatherings for Thanksgiving or any kind of gathering because we know those are opportunities in which COVID can quickly spread,” Kesterman said.

The school board plans to discuss the current situation, its long-term recommendations and what this might mean for athletics at its Oct. 5 meeting.

“Until we at least flip back to orange or until we get to the point where we are able to get all of the students in the building, we’ll remain at a distanced level,” said CPS assistant superintendent Shauna Murphy.

The district’s leadership team will meet Friday to discuss what a retirn to in-person learning may look like down the road.

Any parents with questions or concerns are asked to visit the district's website.