‘They miss meeting all the kids’: Thousands of Middletown students to return to in-person classes

The Middletown Board of Education voted 5-0 Monday evening to return to a normal, five-day class schedule next month after hearing from city health officials of a reduction in coronavirus cases in the community. Students who are now on a hybrid class schedule will begin all live classes on March 22. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
The Middletown Board of Education voted 5-0 Monday evening to return to a normal, five-day class schedule next month after hearing from city health officials of a reduction in coronavirus cases in the community. Students who are now on a hybrid class schedule will begin all live classes on March 22. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

MIDDLETOWN — Thousands of students in Middletown Schools will soon be scheduled to spend the rest of the school year in live, five-day-a-week classes after action Monday by the district’s board.

When Middletown’s 6,300 students return from spring break on March 22, about 4,900, or 78 percent, of them will resume the first, normal school class schedule since the onset of the coronavirus in March 2020.

About 1,400 students in the city schools, however, will remain remote learners.

Those students’ parents enrolled them in a binding agreement keeping them in the district’s all-virtual learning program through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

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The school board voted unanimously after an endorsement from the city’s top health official for returning to all live classes despite the on-going coronavirus pandemic.

“Schools stepped up to the plate and did whatever is needed to control the spread,” of the coronavirus, Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips told board members during their virtual meeting.

Positive tests for coronavirus in the city have dropped to a level – and are expected to continue – and Phillips said her department will continue to monitor closely the number of student and school staff positive cases.

If cases increase, Phillips said, the schools will return to its current hybrid class schedule that saw students in recent months attend in-person classes twice a week and the rest of the week learn via digital classes from home as part of a hybrid schedule.

Marlon Styles Jr., superintendent of Middletown Schools, said the district’s 10 schools will be ready for a return to live classes after spring break ends March 22.

“The safety protocols we have in place have been working,” said Styles, who said in recent weeks there have been no cases of any student to student or student to staff transmission of the virus.

Among the school parents watching the board meeting online was Connie Jenkins, who said her children were happy about the board’s action.

“We have a sixth-grader and a junior and they both have shared how much they miss school and doing presentations in front of peers instead of on a computer,” said Jenkins. “They miss meeting all the kids from the different schools and making new friends and coming together and being a Middie family, like they have for years. These are just a few reasons returning is great for our kids.”

Fellow Middletown school parent Gabrielle-Veida Lotter said her daughter was especially excited about returning to “more social interactions with her peers that she has really been missing.”

The city schools were among the few in the area to start the current school year in August with all-remote learning in response to the coronavirus.

And Middletown was the first district in Ohio to see teachers and non-instructional staff receive the first of two coronavirus vaccine shots on Jan. 27.

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Board member Anita Scheibert said after hearing from Phillips and Styles regarding the return to a five-day class schedule she felt “very comfortable” with the decision.

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