Hillsdale Middle School

Hillsdale Middle School, pictured above.

This is one of a series of stories about how the school year is going at school districts in Ashland County. 

JEROMESVILLE -- The Hillsdale Local School District has operated in a hybrid fashion for the entire 2020-21 school year and intends to continue in that way as of now.   

In a recent survey, about 62 percent of parents said they would be comfortable with their children attending school each weekday, but since then the number of COVID-19 cases increased in Ashland County and at the Hillsdale School District.

As of Nov. 20, the district's COVID-19 dashboard reported 14 cumulative cases of COVID-19 between students and staff. Of those cases, two are active. 

The dashboard shows 149 students or staff members have been quarantined due to the pandemic since Aug. 3. There are 41 currently quarantined. 

Hillsdale COVID-19 Count

As of Nov. 20, Hillsdale Local School District reported 14 cumulative cases of COVID-19, according to its COVID-19 dashboard

"If our new construction was done, and we had bigger classrooms and better ventilation systems, we might be back with everyone 100 percent and working through it without any more issues than we're having right now, but when you’re dealing with classrooms under 600 square foot, you've got tight quarters," Superintendent Steve Dickerson said. 

All students at Hillsdale spend three days learning online and two days in-person. One group of students meets Monday and Tuesday, while the opposite half meets Thursday and Friday. All students work remotely on Wednesdays. The schedule varies on shortened weeks. 

The intention behind the smaller class sizes is to allow students and staff to better socially distance themselves.  

"I’d rather see kids back every day, but I've got to be able to do it safely. By going hybrid, it was a plan we could sustain no matter what goes on in the county," Dickerson said. "The state does all the county color coding, but if it doesn't directly relate to our school, then there's no need for us to react to that." 

The district did move seventh and eighth grade students to a remote platform from Nov. 2 through Nov. 13 due to the number of staff and students quarantined in those grades.

Dickerson announced plans to remain in hybrid learning on Nov. 6. In his message to parents, he mentioned the survey with the 62 percent approval of full-time in-person learning.

"Since then, though, Ohio and Hillsdale have seen an increase in COVID cases. I have been getting phone calls from families to let me know that they are no longer comfortable with their children moving to daily in-person instruction even though they answered that way on the survey," Dickerson said. 

He explained that the district's number of quarantined students and staff would have likely been higher if the schools weren't operated in a hybrid fashion. 

Most COVID-19 cases, Dickerson added, appear to come from contacts at home. The school nurse works to identify close contacts to those with COVID-19 cases and facilitates quarantining. 

"We've had a lot of outside sources causing the quarantines. The root of the spread has not been in schools," Dickerson said. 

Students in Hillsdale have also had to option to learn in a fully remote setting. The district has worked with families to transition students from one option to another throughout the year. 

"We won’t leave anyone in a situation they are uncomfortable with," Dickerson said. 

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