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Sycamore Schools To Remain in Face-to-Face Learning

Yesterday Governor Mike DeWine announced that Hamilton County was elevated to Ohio’s COVID-19 watch list, one step below the state’s highest alert level for Level 4 “purple.” Hamilton County Health officials have warned us that the county will likely advance to purple next week. 

At this time, Sycamore Community Schools plans to continue face-to-face instruction even if the state elevates Hamilton County to purple status. This decision was led by health data from our schools and major local zip codes, as assessed by Sycamore’s Data Assessment and Risk Team (DART).

When the state initially released it’s COVID-19 Risk Level Assessment colors back in June, a Level 4 purple designation included a stay at home order, with only necessary travel. However, the governor has since reversed that decision by not mandating that businesses and schools close when their county reaches purple. 

“There’s no mandate from the state in regard to purple,” Gov. DeWine said during a coronavirus briefing on Thursday. “There’s some guidance, and we tell people that it’s a heightened level of awareness and a heightened level of concern.”

Decisions about keeping schools open will be up to local school boards, DeWine said. He urged teachers and administrators to honestly assess their students’ needs before moving to online or blended learning. 

While community spread continues to rise, Sycamore Community Schools continues to see zero in-school transmission of COVID-19. Of our 23 confirmed cases, none have been due to exposure at school. Furthermore, none of the 477 close contacts as a result of these confirmed cases have tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I continue to be impressed with the hard work that all of our schools have done to maintain a safe environment,” said Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner (HCPH) Greg Kesterman said. “From what I have seen, our schools continue to be one of the safest, most well-controlled environments for our children.”

DART continues data-driven decision-making as we assess community spread in our major zip codes as well as school spread of COVID-19. This team includes local public health and medical professionals who meet weekly. This week the team met three times to assess the current health situation. The team feels optimistic that our school can continue to operate in the face-to-face model with the current health and safety protocols in place. 

“Our data shows our schools are perhaps the safest place for kids to be,” said Frank Forsthoefel, superintendent. “We feel confident that with the state shifting away from a lockdown order for Level 4, we can continue to provide a healthy and safe environment for our families who have chosen to send their children to learn in school.”

“We understand that this is a change from what was originally communicated in our Healthy Back to School Plan, but we have said from the beginning, the district must be nimble, flexible, and responsive to the ever-changing circumstances, including changing health guidelines and mandates handed down by the CDC, state of Ohio, and county. ”

As such, the district will continue with its current programming until a coordinated and thorough review of health data causes us to change course. If such a change would happen, the district will alert staff and families in a timely manner in order for everyone to prepare properly. It should be noted that directive from the state or county regarding the closing of school will be followed.

“While we are not seeing spread in our schools, the reality is COVID-19 continues to spread in our community so we must be vigilant in our safety efforts, including mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing, and staying home when you are not feeling well,” said Forsthoefel. “By doing our part outside of school, we can continue to ensure that our buildings are a safe place for all.”

Thank you for continuing to be supportive of our administrators and teachers as we do everything we can to meet the needs of our learners. 

“We know that our families and staff have been under a tremendous amount of stress since March,” said Forsthoefel. “We appreciate everything you are doing to help us have a successful school year despite the many challenges we face. Your sacrifices and support have not gone unnoticed. We will get through this together and stronger.”

To see the very latest health data for our district, please view our COVID-19 Weekly Dashboard.