School as normal for county students

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Red is the color of the week for Shelby County as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday the county had changed from orange to red on the Ohio Public Health’s Advisory System map. The county is also in the Top 20 list for counties ranked by highest occurrence of COVID-19 cases.

Shelby County reported 261 positive cases from Oct 29 to Nov. 10. During the same period of time, Auglaize County had 323 cases; and Miami County had 664 cases.

So what does “going red” mean for students in Shelby County. According to local superintendents, it’s school as normal unless the governor puts restrictions on classes being held in-person.

“At this point, Sidney City Schools will continue to operate as we have been. Our positive student cases, by our observations, are not being generated in school. I am also not aware of a positive student case that has led to another positive student case,” said Tiffany Rank, communications director.

“We continue to work with the Shelby County Health Department to quarantine groups of students as needed when exposed to a positive case. In grades 5-8, students who are quarantined continue instruction at home remotely through Schoology. We are asking families of students in these grades to use their own devices as available should their child be quarantined. In grades K-4, quarantined instruction may vary from teacher to teacher, grade to grade,” said Rank.

“Our greatest risk for closing for any length of time is staffing shortages. Staffing is critical, especially in transportation. Should we have multiple bus drivers out, either sick or quarantined, it is possible for school to close,” she said. “It is critical that our students continue to follow mask orders on school premises, including on busses, to ensure the safety of staff and their fellow classmates.”

The county superintendents concurred with Rank’s statements.

“As of right now the change in county status or color rating will not change our efforts to provide the best education we can which is a face to face education where our students are with their teachers. We currently, as I am writing this, have 12 students total out through contact tracing K-12. If that number were to drastically increase or our staff numbers were to increase to the point we felt it necessary to shutdown for a period of time we would do that, but the driving force for any decision we make will be the wellbeing of our students and staff and not some color coded state map,” said Botkins Local School Superintendent Jeff McPheron.

Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent Ryan Maier said, “H-H has no plans to change our educational programming at this time. I can’t tell you an exact number or event that needs to occur that will change our mind – one would be the governor closing us like last year which I do not believe will happen based upon him saying schools are doing a great job!”

“Shelby County going on Red has not changed our plan at Russia Local School. At the current time, Russia Local School has ZERO active cases of COVID 19 among the students and staff. We will continue to follow our plan which does include alternative plans if the cases within the district would become too high,” said Russia Local Schools Superintendent Steve Rose.

Jackson Center Local Schools Superintendent Bill Reichert said his district is not changing any of their plans for the school year at this time.

“Kids are incredibly resilient to the virus, it has been proven many times over. The path to online for us is if we have too many staff that get sick or are quarantined and we cannot find substitute teachers. We will do everything we can not to let that happen,” said Reichert.

Fort Loramie Local Schools Superintendent Dan Holland said his district will continue to follow safety protocols and have 5 day a week in person learning.

“We would change that if the governor put out a statewide mandate to close schools, or we reached a certain percentage of students who were out ill within the district,” said Holland. “This is similar to what we would do with any other illness such as the flu, strep, etc. I would also add that our Shelby County Health Department has done an exceptional job of leading and communicating during this difficult time. They have been great to work with and we appreciate all their efforts to keep our school sis Shelby County safe.”

“We continue to believe it is crucial for students to remain in school if at all possible. The spread is occurring outside of school at gatherings where people are not wearing masks or social distancing. Our students and staff have been diligent about taking precautions. At this point in time, the primary factor for us is whether we can cover our staffing needs. We plan to continue with five day per week instruction,” said Upper Valley Career Center Superintendent Dr. Nancy Luce.

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writr at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writr at 937-538-4822.