Middletown will start the school year online. Could others change their plans?

Marlon Styles Jr., superintendent of Middletown Schools, says the district took the locally unprecedented move of starting the coming school year with remote learning to give parents time to prepare before school starts on Aug. 17.

Back-to-school plans for many area schools remain unsettled as the threat of coronavirus looms over Butler County.

Middletown Schools said Monday that starting the new school year will now consist of all learning being done from home for its 6,300 students, changing its previously announced plans that included in-school instruction.

ExploreMiddletown changes plans, says it will start school remote next month

All area public school systems are closely watching state and local health officials and following their recommendations in the wake of Butler County being placed it on the second-highest warning category of Level 3 after positive tests for coronavirus began spiking upward.

Outside the region, only Trotwood-Madison Schools – northwest of Dayton – have so far announced they will begin the 2020-20121 school year next month by ordering students to learn from home.

ExploreCoronavirus: Trotwood-Madison Schools to be online for 9 weeks

Jackie Phillips, City of Middletown health commissioner, jointly released a statement backing the city schools’ decision to start home learning instead of in-person classes on Aug. 17.

“We are seeing a huge increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in our community. The increase of our positivity rate, even as we are doing more testing, means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread,” said Phillips.

“This is not a position that I would be comfortable putting our children, educators, staff, and their families in at this time.”

In the week of July 1-14, Middletown health officials saw 60 positive cases and eight hospitalizations. Ages of these positive cases over the last seven days in the city ranged from one to 85 years old with five of these cases under the age of 18 and a median age of 39, reported Phillips.

Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said his district made the call now to start remotely for an indefinite period to give school parents time to prepare for home learning.

“While it might seem too early to make the call from a remote start to the year, we wanted to give our families four weeks to process the information and make plans. We believe by starting the year in remote learning, we are giving our students the best opportunity to get back to the classroom this school year,” said Styles.

How long the remote learning lasts will depend on the status of the coronavirus in the city, said Styles.

“When it is safe to do so, we will make decisions on returning to an in-person classroom environment - with a virtual learning option with the guidance and support of our area health departments,” he said.

Cincinnati State officials also just announced classes at its Middletown branch for fall semester will be a combination of remote learning and in-person but limited attendance classroom instruction with students and staff required to wear protective face masks.

"We have two priorities—safety, and serving the students of Middletown and Butler County," said Tom Hale, acting director of Cincinnati State Middletown. "Some students find online learning challenging and we want to provide them with in-person learning options that will help them get a strong start toward success in college."

According to Cincinnati State officials, in-person options will include courses in English composition, math, statistics, business management, early child education, keyboarding, computer applications, and first-year experience.

On Cincinnati State’s website, course listings for the fall semester can be found, including information about whether classes will be delivered online, in-person, or a mix of the two.

For Middletown K-12 school parents and students, more information can be found on the district’s website.

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