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Youngstown schools to remain online only

District says it plans to re-evaluate every three weeks

YOUNGSTOWN — City schools CEO Justin Jennings is not expecting to reopen the district’s buildings at the end of the first nine-week period because he does not feel it’s safe for students, teachers, staff and administrators to return yet.

Jennings said Wednesday during his monthly CEO virtual update that state coronavirus numbers have been increasing over the last several weeks.

The city school district will re-evaluate every three weeks whether to return to school buildings, he said.

Its students have been learning online since the academic year began.

More than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday in Ohio for the first time, breaking a record for the most new cases reported in a day.

Jennings noted he was scheduled to attend a conference in New York, but was told he would have to quarantine for two weeks before being allowed to do anything in the city — just because he is from Ohio.

He especially is concerned about reopening schools too soon because statistically, many of those young people getting sick and hospitalized are living in black and brown communities. Also, parents and grandparents are more susceptible to contracting the virus if the kids bring it home.

“The majority of our teachers have 15 years or more experience in the field, so they are in the age groups in which there is concern about the spread of the virus,” Jennings said.

There also are logistical concerns.

“If we open the schools, we would have to increase the amount of school buses,” he said. “We would need 18 additional school buses to transport.”

Of the approximately 70 buses the district already owns, Jennings estimates 20 need to be replaced because of their age and condition. The district needs to replace these, as well as obtain the 18 additional buses to take care of its basic transportation needs.

The district has three buses on order.

“Even dealing with outside bus companies may be a problem because of the additional costs,” Jennings noted.

Jennings noted he has spoken to other schools superintendents about operating under hybrid models — mixing online learning and attending school buildinhgs — and in some cases that system is not working well.

“When this began in March, they were giving us one set of information about how coronavirus is spread — whether it is airborne — distancing needed between people, how long it stays on surfaces, etc.,” Jennings said. “For a time, they moved away from some of what was said during that period, but now they are going back to what they were saying in the beginning.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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