After deferring a decision earlier this week, Cincinnati Public Schools is opting to take some schools remote in light of extreme staffing issues related to COVID-19.
"We are making decisions to shift to remote learning on a school-by-school basis and communicating those decisions to families and staff as quickly as possible," CPS says in a release. "This may mean migrating classrooms, grades or schools to remote learning, as needed."
At least 388 CPS employees called off work on Jan. 3 — the district's first day back from winter break. Substitute teachers, administrators and dozens of central office workers filled vacancies, but educators and administrators say this isn't sustainable as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus quickly spreads throughout Ohio and Kentucky.
As of right now, LEAP Academy and AWL will be the only two schools going remote, starting tomorrow, Jan. 6. They will be remote for five days and return to in-person learning on Jan. 11. If that timeframe needs to be extended, CPS says they will notify family and staff.
CPS says they will continue to "rigorously evaluate district staffing and case counts each day" and update the list of schools going remote at cps-k12.org.
The website says students will use Google Meet and Schoology during this time, and attendance will be taken. There will be no afterschool activities. Students who have tested positive for COVID should report it to their school nurse. Staff with the virus should call the COVID hotline at 513-363-0527.
The CPS Board of Education will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10 and provide an update about staffing, COVID and closures.
The board met earlier this week and debated what to do about the growing staff deficits across the district as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike at levels similar to those of late 2020 when many school districts went to fully remote learning models.
During the meeting, interim superintendent Tianay Amat proposed moving to remote learning beginning Thursday, Jan. 6, until at least Jan. 18, depending on COVID-19 community spread and staff levels. Amat said that the staffing shortages included educators, medical personnel and food service personnel.
Amat's proposal recommended that all district schools move to remote learning, but some board members advocated for each school deciding to staff up or close.
Cincinnati's coronavirus cases increased in December, which was largely attributed to the virus spreading during indoor Thanksgiving gatherings. According to city data, cases spiked with the Delta variant from July until October before going down for a few weeks and rising again in December as the Omicron variant rapidly spread.
As of Jan. 5, the city of Cincinnati had 335 new COVID-19 cases. On Jan. 1, the city reported 987 new cases.
Doctors have warned that gathering indoors — particularly with unvaccinated individuals, without masking and without social distancing — increases the likelihood to both spread and get COVID-19.
COVID-19 continues to be a problem in Greater Cincinnati as well as throughout Ohio, Kentucky and the nation. On Jan. 3, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that on Dec. 30, the state had 6,441 COVID-19 cases, the highest ever for a single day (the previous highest number was 5,742 cases on Jan. 6, 2021).
On Dec. 29, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reported that 5,356 residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous record of 5,308 hospitalizations from Dec. 15, 2020.
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