Some Hamilton County schools plan to continue in-person classes, despite upgraded COVID-19 risk

Posted at 6:34 PM, Oct 02, 2020

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated Oak Hills Local Schools' plans going forward. The district will continue full in-person learning. WCPO regrets the error.

Cincinnati Public Schools officials responded Thursday to Hamilton County’s upgraded COVID-19 threat level by delaying the district’s return to in-person instruction, which had been scheduled to start Oct. 5.

“Our district has been committed to using data to guide our decisions all along the way,” superintendent Laura Mitchell said Thursday night. “As a large urban district, our families are more likely to be negatively impacted by this virus.”

Not every local school system followed her lead.

Oak Hills Local Schools, where leaders had planned to switch from in-person classes to an online hybrid curriculum if the county reached the Ohio Department of Health’s “red” category, finished out the week with students attending classes in their school buildings.

The district plans to continue in-person learning, spokesperson Krista Ramsey said Friday.

Deer Park Community City Schools will transition to in-person classes starts Monday, despite the county’s upgraded alert level. Superintendent Jay Phillips said Friday he had spoken with county health officials and expected Hamilton County to be downgraded to the next-lowest level — orange, for “increased exposure and spread” — on Oct. 8, the next day DeWine will unveil county-by-county data.

Indian Hill Exempted Village School District brought students back to face-to-face classes in mid-September and plans to keep them there, according to spokesperson Heather Higdon.

And on Thursday, the same day Hamilton County received notice of its upgraded alert level, Mount Healthy City Schools saw its first in-person elementary classes of the academic year.

These classes represent only a small portion of the district’s total elementary-age population, per Mount Healthy spokesperson Missy Madill Knight. Over 60% of families at each school building opted to keep their children home through the fall semester, enabling a larger amount of social distancing and protection for families who sent children back.

The district believes it’s enough to keep them safe. Middle and high school students in Mount Healthy are scheduled to return Oct. 26.