BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With lower district COVID-19 numbers and a vaccine on the way, Anthony Wayne Local Schools Superinten-dent Dr. Jim Fritz said he feels a “positive vibe” coming out of the winter break.
During the January 7 Anthony Wayne Board of Education meeting, Fritz explained that the number of students and staff in quarantine or testing positive has dropped since the district transitioned to remote learning after Thanksgiving. A presentation posted on the district website shares that breakdown per building and in the AW community.
“We’re going to find out a lot next week as kids come back into the buildings,” he said, noting that New Year’s Eve sleepovers and other gatherings by students might impact those numbers.
“Still, our numbers in the district today are low. That was part of the decision-making process for the school schedule for second semester,” Fritz said.
Another factor was an evaluation conducted by The Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the governor’s office. It shows little difference between a masked student being exposed to a COVID-19-positive student whether 3 feet apart or 6 feet apart. This will change the physical distancing requirement in schools, especially the primary buildings.
The state evaluation also led to an alteration in quarantine rules. A student or staff member who was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 does not have to quarantine from school, as long as the exposure occurred in a classroom setting or on the bus and students were masked. However, the exposed person would need to quarantine from other activities, such as sports, if within 6 feet of a positive person, Fritz said. Those who stay 6 feet or more away from the positive person do not need to quarantine. When the second semester starts on Tuesday, January 19, students in preschool through fourth grade will be attending school four day a week, Tuesday through Friday. Mondays will be used for deep cleaning and remote learning.
Grades 5-6 will begin the semester using the hybrid schedule but transition to being in school four days a week. Grades 7-12 will continue to use the hybrid schedule.
Ultimately, the goal is to get all students back into school five days a week, but that will depend on COVID-19 numbers among students and staff, as well as the vaccine rollout.
The vaccination distribution is a major concern, Fritz said. Of the 1A group in Lucas County, about 40 percent, or 4,000 of 10,000 shots, were distributed as of January 7.
School employees, those ages 65 and older, and people with disabilities are in the 1B category, for which the state said vaccines will be available on Monday, February 1.
“That’s probably unrealistic,” Fritz said, explaining that the number of Ohioans in the older age brackets alone is larger than the number of vaccines available. This will create a backlog for beginning vaccinations on educational employees. Even if starting on February 1, the process to immunity is at least five to six weeks, due to the waiting period between the two shots and an additional 14 days until immunity.
The district has a plan ready to go for a closed pod vaccination site, in which all employees and potentially their immediate families could be vaccinated at school. A plan is also in place for the district to serve as an open pod (community) vaccination site if needed by the county.
“I’m optimistic about the new year,” said Fritz, noting that he’s in his 18th year with the district. “We’ve faced many challenges and we’ve always overcome them like true generals. I’m looking forward to 2021 being one of those years.”
During the meeting, the board also:
• Elected Jeff Baden as board president and Doug Zimmerman as vice president.
• Approved a 2021-22 school calendar.
• Accepted several donations, including: $3,172 from Waterville United Methodist Church to Waterville Primary for Chromebooks; $125 from Hope United Methodist Church for school lunches; $2,800 from AW Athletic Boosters to the football program; and $990 from the AW Alumni Association to the high school principal’s fund for the Wall of Honor.
• Learned of graduation requirement changes for those in the Class of 2023 and beyond. Among the changes: requiring students to earn seals in areas such as community service, personal growth and workforce readiness.
• Agreed to allow public employees to utilize sick leave during self-quarantine or to take care of a child who is at home quarantining.
• Approved Mark King to serve as an independent contractor through May 31 at a cost of $1,000. King will instruct students who are learning to become sports referees. When finished, each student will earn a certification.
• Thanked Wendy Cousino for her years of dedication as a high school art teacher. Cousino plans to retire by the end of February.
• Heard Fritz thank the board members for their service in one of the most challenging school years ever. Doug Zimmerman has been a board member for 20 years.