Hamilton Schools close due to COVID-19 staffing shortages

The 10,000-student Hamilton Schools will be closed until early next week after district officials announced Tuesday no more live classes starting Wednesday due to teacher and staffer absences. The district is the first in Butler County to close all schools during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the region. (PHOTO BY NICK GRAHAM\Journal-News)

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The 10,000-student Hamilton Schools will be closed until early next week after district officials announced Tuesday no more live classes starting Wednesday due to teacher and staffer absences. The district is the first in Butler County to close all schools during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the region. (PHOTO BY NICK GRAHAM\Journal-News)

170 educators out sick Tuesday; other districts say they are on the verge of closing

One of the area’s largest school systems has closed down its schools this week, citing COVID-19-caused staffing shortages.

The 10,000-student Hamilton Schools was open Monday and Tuesday but will not open Wednesdays due to a lack of teachers and classroom instructional assistants, said district officials.

In a notice sent Tuesday to school families, Hamilton Superintendent Mike Holbrook announced the closings, which will remain in place until Tuesday, Jan. 18.

“Staff illness has reached a critical level where staffing classrooms is no longer possible. Due to this challenge, Hamilton City Schools will be closed for students, and no remote learning will be required,” Holbrook said.

He said 170 teachers and classroom educational assistants were out sick Tuesday.

The city schools employ 800 teachers.

Hamilton was not alone Tuesday in announcing school closures.

Officials in the Talawanda school system told school families the district middle school will also close Wednesday and re-open Tuesday due to staffing shortages.

“We are close in each building to being forced to shut down. Bogan Elementary has a 15.8% student absenteeism rate. Kramer has a 14.9% student absenteeism rate. Marshall has a 16% student absenteeism rate. Lastly, Talawanda High School has a 15.6% student absenteeism rate. We also have many staff who are absent in each building,” wrote Superintendent Ed Theroux in a message to parents.

Holbrook said the city schools are now reflecting what area businesses are also seeing in regards to rocketing employee absences due to the rising number of cases of the COVID-19 Omicron virus variant.

“Hamilton City Schools and other local businesses and school districts have been negatively impacted by staff illness,” he said.

The temporary closing comes at a time when Hamilton Schools were already scheduled to be closed on Friday due to a professional training and development day for school instructors and also closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Hundreds of students in the district’s virtual learning program will not be impacted by the stoppage of in-person classes, he said. But all home student learning extracurricular activities are cancelled for Wednesday through Friday.

Hamilton school parent Deron Wells reacted to the closure announcement saying “it’s crazy.”

“I was like ‘here we go again,’” said Wells, who was picking up his three children from Riverview Elementary for the last time until next Tuesday.

“Now I’m going to have be there (home) from work to watch the kids, so it does affect everything,” said Wells, who added he wasn’t surprised.

“I started to see how bad the case (numbers) were getting and the signs (closures and reduced staffing notices) at the stores.”

The previously scheduled Hamilton Board of Education meeting on Thursday is not cancelled.

Hamilton Schools are the first in Butler County to close live classes due to the recent jump in COVID-19.

Other districts, however, such as Lakota have warned school families of the possibility of such closings occurring as early as later this week.

(Photojournalist Nick Graham contributed to this story.)

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