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Columbiana eyes need for more remote learning

COLUMBIANA — Schools have continued to make difficult decisions regarding in-person learning during COVID-19. On one hand, most educators agree that in-person learning is far superior to any other strategy. However, during COVID-19 remote learning can provide a safer environment to eliminate contact altogether.

Superintendent Don Mook said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that he and the administrative team will take the holiday break to evaluate what learning will look like after Thanksgiving.

About a week ago, the high school discovered its fifth and sixth COVID-19 cases among the school student body. Due to staffing illness, quarantines and the increased spread of the disease, the district decided that the high school would be placed on remote learning through the Thanksgiving break. They are scheduled to return Dec. 1.

A few days later, after an increase in cases and quarantines at South Side Middle School, the eighth grade was also moved to a remote format through the break. Now, as the cases and quarantines continue to weaken the district’s ability to provide an in-person education, it must use the break to re-evaluate the community spread and data.

“Right now, we have about 15 different cases among staff and some students,” Mook said. “And it is causing us to relook at how we do what we do when we do it. Potentially, we’re looking at more remote learning, and we have to see where we are with staff.

As of Tuesday, the district has 13 staff members quarantined because of close-contact situations. Mook said it is very difficult to avoid under the new quarantine rules. Initially you had to be near somebody for 15 consecutive minutes to be quarantined, but that changed to a cumulative 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. And now it can be days.

The district has been extremely proud of the effort put into moving forward with in-person learning up to this point. High school principal Dave Buzzard said his goal is to not have this senior class go through what last year’s senior class went through at the end of the year.

“I know that’s all the way in April and May, but I’m ready to see it through and make sure that whatever we can do to try to have a normal end of the year, we’ll do,” Buzzard said. “We had 12 weeks of smooth sailing, and I think we were doing a great job beforehand.”

Districts have put plans in place to make sure that a seamless transition could take place. The possibility of another spike of COVID-19 has been on the minds of all educators, so Columbiana feels like they would be prepared if it comes to a transition.

Luckily for the district, it has a waiver day on Monday, so they will do some research and examining over the long weekend and let the community know of its decision as soon as it’s made.

slendak@mojonews.com

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