Should Middletown students be in school buildings? Officials ask parents

Middletown’s number of positive coronavirus tests is dropping, and city school leaders reached out Tuesday evening to some parents for their thoughts on possibly re-opening classrooms for thousands of students.

Middletown School officials held the first of three virtual school parent dialogues to help them better gauge the community’s thoughts on returning to some form of in-person instruction for the district’s 6,300 students.

The district is one of three in Butler County, along with Talawanda and New Miami, to use all remote learning so far in the school year.

Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said the city’s coronavirus case numbers are declining in recent weeks from the highs in July and August that helped prompt the district’s decision to go to all remote learning.

If the recent trend continues, said Styles, the district may consider returning to all live classroom learning or a hybrid schedule in which students would only attend classes on some days and learn remotely on others.

“Things are starting to improve significantly … and we are showing a downward trend,” Styles told the 10 Middletown school parents who applied to participate in the meeting.

“This positive data allows us to start considering our return to school."

Jeni Kidwell, a parent and para-professional in the district, said “I’d like to see at least a hybrid model (schedule) especially for the youngest kids.”

But Tonya Mongar, a grandparent raising a school child, said she is concerned about a return to normal classes could raise the infection risks for the city’s older residents who are part of the children’s extended families.

“The older grandparents are very much at risk,” Mongar said..

Styles said data from city health officials showed there were 192 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Middletown in August but so far in September there have been 62 cases.

Moreover, the number of cases among children in grades K-12 are also declining, he said. In July and August, there were 16 reported for each month in the city but six children have been reported as positive to date this month.

He said Middletown’s decision to go with all remote learning was based on local health data, which at the time was not reflected in some other surrounding districts who chose a different strategy for their schools.

Styles gave no estimates on a timetable for any decision regarding changing from the district’s current all remote learning.

Another two Facebook Live sessions, which includes the participation of two Middletown school board members, will be conducted on the district’s website at 6 p.m. today and Thursday. School parents – limited to 10 per session – who are interested in participating can get more information from Middletown Schools' website.

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