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COVID-19 vaccines for school staff tied to March 1 reopening

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Yellow Springs students, whose instruction has been 100% online since the start of the 2020-21 school year, will return to the classroom — at least part time — no later than March 1.

District Superintendent Terri Holden announced the plan in a short video distributed to families on Friday morning, a day after Gov. Mike DeWine announced his intention to make the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers and other school staff members contingent on districts agreeing to open schools by March 1, if they hadn’t already done so.

Holden confirmed to the News on Friday afternoon that she intended to sign the agreement on behalf of the district. She said it did not need school board approval, and her signature bound her “professionally and ethically” to honor the agreement.

The school board in December had approved a transition plan for the second semester, which begins Jan. 19, for the introduction of a five-part rubric, based on the prevalence of COVID-19 cases, to determine instructional approach for the following week — whether to continue online, follow a part-time “hybrid” model or initiate a 100% in-person return. 

According to Holden, the district will use the rubric as planned through February, and then use its indicator points to decide between hybrid or full in-person instruction effective March 1. Her video address Friday began with an explanation of the individual indictors, a summary of which which is posted on the district website. The rubric, also on the website, is to be updated each Thursday.

After watching the video, some local parents went on social media to express concerns about the state’s March 1 target date, especially if case numbers remain similar to current levels.

“I am resenting DeWine for giving us this ultimatum,” one parent wrote on Facebook. “Of course I want teachers to have the vaccine, but going back full in person or even hybrid on March 1 is too dangerous when we (the families and our elderly) still don’t have access to the vaccine.”

In his press conference Thursday, DeWine said “most” schools in the state have already reopened in some form this academic year, and that by March, students who remained online will have been out of the classroom for nearly a full year, since last spring’s statewide shutdown began March 16.

“The justification, the reason for doing this, is very simple and singular, to get kids back in school,” he said.

The first dose of the vaccine is to be administered to school personnel the first week in February, according to DeWine.

A longer version of this story will be in the next print edition of the YS News.

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