COVID-19: More area school districts close because of low staffing

Officials for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, which is one of the largest districts in southwest Ohio, say the district's recent five-year financial forecast shows it to be stable when it comes to its operations. The governing school board recently reviewed the district's state-mandated, financial projection. (File Photo\Journal-News)

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Officials for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, which is one of the largest districts in southwest Ohio, say the district's recent five-year financial forecast shows it to be stable when it comes to its operations. The governing school board recently reviewed the district's state-mandated, financial projection. (File Photo\Journal-News)

The local surge in COVID-19 cases will keep thousands more students out of classes Friday as additional area school systems announced closures Thursday.

Officials at Butler County’s largest district — the 17,000-student Lakota Schools — told families its 23 school buildings must close due to staffing shortages caused by illnesses and absences from the virus.

And officials at Madison Schools also announced the end live classes after Thursday’s school day, as has the 6,300-student Middletown Schools and the 4,500-student Kings district in southern Warren County.

All Monroe Schools are also closed Friday due to a lack of teachers and school staffers.

And officials in Ross Schools said Thursday their 961-student high school will also be closed for live-classes Friday due to staffing shortages.

Earlier this week, officials in Talawanda Schools closed the districts middle school to live classes Wednesday through Tuesday Jan. 18, which includes the previously scheduled off day for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

And late Thursday afternoon officials from the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools announced they too would be closed on Friday and through next week — but for a day longer, not returning to live classes until Wednesday Jan. 19.

Also closing Friday is Warren County’s largest district — Mason Schools — where officials told school families there will be a new, mandatory mask policy for students when they return to live classes Tuesday and that rule will be in effect through Jan. 28.

“Since returning from winter break, we have shared with you our concerns about the high number of staff absences, lack of substitutes and the impact this is having on the daily operation of our buildings. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved this week,” wrote Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools, which is the largest suburban district in southwest Ohio and the ninth largest in the state.

“In fact, it has become more widespread. We now have multiple buildings without a principal or assistant principal, as well as several schools without nurses. Our teacher and support staff absences without substitutes are in the high double digits. Absences are also impacting our custodial staff, child nutrition and, of course, busing. This high rate of staff absences is presenting a challenge at every school,” Miller said.

The moves come as other districts in the region have made similar moves in response to historic teacher and school staff absentee rates brought on by the latest jump in virus cases, a trend that is being mirrored across Ohio and the nation.

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Earlier this week, the 10,000-student Hamilton City Schools District ordered its schools closed through Monday with a planned return to live classes on Tuesday.

Area school officials are also taking advantage of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday and schools’ scheduled closings on that day.

By closing Friday, school officials are extending the length of time staffers can remain at home to recover from what medical experts said is the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, which is generally milder than the original virus or the Delta variant.

Officials are urging all families with students to check with their local school district and school building websites regarding extra-curricular activities. Also of note, most districts are not offering remote learning because the educators are sick.

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