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Maumee, Ottawa Hills moving to all-remote learning; both districts anticipate Lucas County to move to Purple Level 4 on COVID-19 map

The Ohio Department of Health releases the map data on Thursdays.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Local school districts are preparing to keep kids learning at home as hospitals face a surge in coronavirus patients in Lucas County.

Leaders with both the Maumee and Ottawa Hills school districts have announced plans to move all students to remote learning starting Monday of next week.

The decisions were made following a conversation between health leaders and school officials, in which it came to light that Lucas County would likely be moved to Level 4 (Purple) on the state's coronavirus map next week.

This means exposure is severe and you should stay home. People should only leave home for necessary supplies. 

RELATED: What does Level 4 (Purple) mean on Ohio's coronavirus map?

In a letter sent home to parents, Maumee school officials said the last day for in-person learning for K-12 students will be on Friday, Dec. 4, with the intention to return to the building Jan. 11.

"We just hit a point where we are starting to see a steady increase in the amount of quarantines as well as positive cases with both student and staff," said Dr. Todd Cramer, the superintendent with Maumee City Schools.

For Ottawa Hills, all instruction for K-12 students will be remote only starting Monday, Dec. 7 and through Friday, Jan. 8. However, school leaders said some exceptions may be made for special education students. 

"The district made a big announcement. It was one that we definitely did not take lightly. There was a lot of thought put into it." said Dr. Adam Fineske, the superintendent at Ottawa Hills Local Schools.

Dr. Brian Kaminski, the vice president of quality and safety, with ProMedica says it's no surprise since Lucas county has met at least six of seven indicators of concern for COVID-19 spread for at least two consecutive weeks.

"We do have more admitted patients in the hospitals, in this county and the region than we had even during the peak of the pandemic, so our hospitals are definitely stressed and so we're all dealing with capacity issues and staffing issues to some extent," said Dr. Kaminski. 

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department will have a special meeting Thursday at 10 a.m., addressing school orders. Last week, the department ordered that all students in grades 7-12 should learn remotely starting Dec. 4. However, grades K-6 were allowed to continue learning in person at the discretion of each school district.

RELATED: Health board orders virtual learning for all 7-12 graders in Lucas County starting Dec. 4; sports, extracurriculars can't use buildings

The state's coronavirus map will be updated this Thursday during Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 press conference. Maumee school officials were told Lucas County would likely be put on the watch list, meaning it meets the criteria for a Level 4 (Purple) designation. However, the way the state's system is designed, a county needs to trigger those indicators two weeks in a row to officially be elevated to purple.  

In the meantime, the governor says a vaccine could be distributed in as little as two weeks.

"The new about the vaccine coming is definitely positive. But we have to remember to keep our guard. With al that coming I'm hopeful that we welcome all of our kids back in January," said Dr. Fineske.

RELATED: Gov. Mike DeWine says first batch of COVID-19 vaccines set to arrive in Ohio by Dec. 15

Below are the full letters sent home to parents in each district:

MAUMEE CITY SCHOOLS

"Dear Maumee Families,

Last week I sent a communication to you about our school district plans regarding the COVID-19 virus and the most recent order made by the Toledo Lucas County Health Department (TLCHD).  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been committed to monitoring multiple data points including county data and district-specific COVID cases (students and staff), and also consulting almost daily with TLCHD.  Recently, we learned that Lucas County will most likely receive a “Star” designation this week and transition from “Level 3 - Red” to “Level 4 - Purple: Severe Exposure and Spread” next week.

Therefore, considering the looming change to “Level 4 - Purple,” reviewing our internal COVID data from the past 10 days, and in consultation with TLCHD, effective Monday, December 7, 2020, Maumee City Schools is suspending in-person classroom instruction for all students in grades K-12. This decision is being made for the health and safety of all Maumee students and staff.

To be clear, our last day of attendance will be this Friday, December 4. At this time we anticipate returning to in-person classes on January 11.  We will continue to evaluate all the data and communicate whether we will be able to return to school on January 11 or if an extended closure is needed.

We are working with faculty and staff and our buildings will provide you with additional guidance later this week including ordering meals, technology support, and social-emotional supports, as examples. This is an evolving process and I ask for everyone’s patience.  At this time we will not be able to accommodate individual requests to make changes to the choice you made regarding MVP (online) versus in-person instruction. Similar to when we started this year remotely, students who are currently learning via in-person instruction will transition to remote learning with classes taught by their current classroom teachers.

Since we are not able to provide in-person instruction until January 11, students will likely be asked to complete work via teacher-made packets and/or online materials as well as live and recorded lessons.  If your student receives individualized instruction per an individualized education plan (IEP), please know we are working to find ways to provide the best possible services for all students.

I am very grateful for the faculty and staff who are working to ensure a continuity of teaching and learning in the coming weeks.  I appreciate your understanding and continued cooperation as we work through any needed changes and modifications to our current plans.  I realize the inconveniences and disruptiveness this causes, but we need to make this adjustment now due to our data trends as well as the advice of the TLCHD.

Finally, I want to thank the individuals in our community who are working hard to keep us safe and control the spread of this virus.  This continues to be a time for our community to come together and I am confident in our ability to persevere.

Todd Cramer - Superintendent"

OTTAWA HILLS

"Dear K-6 OH Parents and Guardians:

As a parent or guardian of a younger student, this announcement may be tough to read and may cause increased stress in your homes for a period of time. But please understand it is one our district took very seriously. This decision is truly about the health and safety of students and staff.

Due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases and the quarantining of students at the elementary level (three new cases were reported over Thanksgiving break: one in Kindergarten, one in 1st Grade, and one in the 6th Grade) and with many K-6 families now requesting the online option for instruction leading up to the holiday/winter break, we have carefully considered a unanimous request from K-6 teachers and staff to move to one consistent model of instruction for elementary-aged students for a three-week period of time.

Ottawa Hills Local Schools has decided to extend the plan announced last week to include all students in grades K-12.*Therefore, all instruction for students in grades K-6 will be remote only starting Monday, Dec. 7, and last through Friday, Jan. 8.*Some exceptions may be made for special education students.

Details about your child's specific schedule will be shared in the coming days by his or her classroom teacher.

Part of making this decision involved the upcoming winter break and the expectations of many families to spend time together. Should we continue to provide in-person instruction, then the probability of having to inform more parents of the need to quarantine could negatively affect those plans. We did not want to do that.

It is also important to share that the district was informed Monday by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department that Lucas County will likely move from a Level 3 (Red) to Level 4 (Purple) "severe exposure and COVID-19 spread" by early next week.

Below is the latest data from the COVID-19 Case Report (tracker). It shows the overall picture since the start of the school year:Our goal is to bring back our current instructional model (in-person instruction five days a week with a live streamed remote option) as of Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
Thank you for your ongoing understanding and patience during this unprecedented time.

Sincerely,
Dr. Adam Fineske"

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