Cincinnati Public Schools parents said they were dismayed on Tuesday night to learn their district will soon return to remote learning, forcing families to navigate another schedule and logistical upheaval in a year already full of them.
“It’s just frustrating and disappointing, is what it is,” said Leah Kattus, whose 9-year-old son attends Fairview Clifton German Language School. “My son’s disappointed.”
Kattus and other CPS parents got the news Tuesday, when superintendent Laura Mitchell announced the district would transition back to remote learning starting Nov. 23. Students will continue learning from home until at least Jan. 4, 2021.
In a letter to families, Mitchell wrote the worsening COVID-19 pandemic — which in August prompted an all-remote start to the academic year — had reached CPS faculty and staff despite the district’s safety measures.
As Ohio case totals rise at a precipitous rate of more than 4,000 per day, more staff members are catching the virus, staying home to care for family or being forced to quarantine after possible exposure to a sick person.
School board president Carolyn Jones said Wednesday the district simply can’t function if the community around it is saturated with COVID-19 cases. And Hamilton County is exactly that: Local health workers diagnose roughly 400 new cases every day. On Tuesday, 800 staff members were absent from work.
“We have to have a health staff to be able to operate the school buildings such that we maintain that level of health and safety,” Jones said.
Tiffany Mattingly, a nurse who leads clinical initiatives for the Cincinnati-based health advocacy group The Health Collaborative, added she believes CPS has done well to keep students and staff safe within its buildings.
The problem enters from outside, where masking, social distancing and hand-washing might not be observed or enforced.
“The schools are doing the same, if not more, to keep people safe than what they were doing previously,” Mattingly said. “It’s just what they’re up against from the external factors outside their buildings.”
Kattus said she understands some of the district’s struggle. Still, her family has begun to investigate moving her son to another school district holding in-person classes. Kattus is resistant to the idea but struggling to think of an alternative.
“It’s really left us with no choice, to either put up with what they have to say or move,” she said.
Jen Salstrom, who has two children at Kilgore School, said Tuesday’s announcement left her outright angry. Her son and daughter haven’t taken to online learning, she said; their grades and their motivation both take a noticeable hit when they’re away from teachers and classmates in person.
Like Kattus, she’s figuring out a game plan that might not involve continued attendance.
“I’m just at the point where there’s not a lot that is under my control except removing myself from the equation entirely,” she said.