Butler County schools seeing more optimism as staffers get second COVID-19 shots

Late last week saw hundreds of area school teachers line up for their second coronavirus vaccine injection - pictured are Middletown school staffers at the high school on Friday - as area districts are increasingly optimistic school life is headed toward more normalcy. It's been almost a year since all Ohio K-12 schools were closed by the state in reaction to the onset of the pandemic. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
Late last week saw hundreds of area school teachers line up for their second coronavirus vaccine injection - pictured are Middletown school staffers at the high school on Friday - as area districts are increasingly optimistic school life is headed toward more normalcy. It's been almost a year since all Ohio K-12 schools were closed by the state in reaction to the onset of the pandemic. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

For the first time in nearly a year area schools are getting a series of positive new developments about their ongoing challenges of trying to operate during a global pandemic.

Late last week saw staffers in many area school districts – including Lakota, Middletown and Fairfield and their combined enrollments of more than 33,000 students – receive the second of two coronavirus inoculations.

At the same time Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the number of positive coronavirus cases is showing enough of a declining trend that the state will soon be offering guidelines to schools about how – unlike last year – they may conduct modified school proms, graduations and other events this coming spring.

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And the latest weekly totals from Butler County school districts, supplied by the Ohio Department of Health, show a significant and relatively low number of area school systems are reporting no new cases of students or staffers testing positive for the coronavirus.

According to the latest state data, among the 55 Butler County public school districts and non-public school buildings, 40 report no new coronavirus cases among students in the week prior.

And 45 of those 55 districts and schools also reported no new cases among teachers and other school staffers for the same period.

All Ohio K-12 schools were shuttered in mid-March 2020 as the onset of the pandemic began to become widely known.

Schools remained closed through the spring and this school year has seen local schools rollercoaster between a variety of schedules – including some districts in all remote learning for weeks – as districts reacted to fluctuating jumps in the coronavirus spread.

Almost every aspect of school life was impacted last school year into the current 2020-2021 year, including sporting events, after-school extracurriculars, in-school annual traditions like pep rallies, in-person competitions and more.

But now there’s cause for optimism, said area school officials.

“We’re so excited what the second round (of vaccine injections) mean for our district and for our students,” said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle, who joined hundreds of other school employees in getting their second vaccine shot at the district’s high school Friday.

“And we’re going back five days,” she said in reference to Middletown’s recent decision to return to a normal, rather than hybrid schedule, on March 22.

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Some districts last week switched to all remote learning for students for a two days to allow teachers to stay at home and deal with some of the side effects of the second injection, which has been reported by some as being substantial.

Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda Schools, said “we certainly look forward to a time in the future when the pandemic is behind us.”

“Talawanda staffers have really stretched themselves this year, and although I know we have all learned some valuable lessons, techniques and strategies, the stress and additional work hours has been very intense for everyone,” said Morrish.

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