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

Middletown Schools are the first in the region to order its students to begin the coming school year, which starts next month, learning from home as a preventive measure to combat the rising number of local positive tests for the coronavirus.
Middletown Schools are the first in the region to order its students to begin the coming school year, which starts next month, learning from home as a preventive measure to combat the rising number of local positive tests for the coronavirus.

Thousands of families in Middletown will start the coming school year with their children learning from home due to the continued threat of the coronavirus, said city school officials.

Middletown Schools is the first in the region to make the move to start the 2020-2021 school year next month by having its 6,300 students learn from home.

The recent jump in the number of Butler County residents testing positive for coronavirus, which prompted state officials to place it on the second highest warning category of Level 3 alerts, pushed the unprecedented move, said Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr.

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“This is a decision the board of education and my administrative team have not made lightly as we all want to get back to the classroom environment, but the risks to the health and safety of our students and staff are too great at this point in time,” said Styles in an announcement released Monday evening after the unanimous board vote.

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,” she said.

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.

Styles said the district made the call now to give school parents time to prepare.

“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.

For more information, said district officials, Middletown school parents should go to the district’s website.