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Mathews sees increase in COVID-19 cases, to go remote

VIENNA — With an increase in COVID-19 cases and increased quarantining among students and staff in the Mathews Local School District, school officials have decided the entire district will remain on remote learning through Tuesday and then officials will decide what direction to take when staff and students are tentatively scheduled to return Dec. 1.

Superintendent Russell McQuaide said at Wednesday’s board of education meeting eight staff members and seven students in the district are COVID-19 positive and many other staff and students are in quarantine. He said some teachers in quarantine still are teaching remotely.

“We have 15 active cases at this time and is why we have gone to all remote. The frequency in the community outside the schools is increasing so much; you can’t keep it out,” he said.

McQuaide said several area school districts have gone to all remote, or have some buildings in their districts on all remote, such as Trumbull Career and Technical Center, Newton Falls, Howland, Lakeview and Niles.

Lakeview School District posted on its website Wednesday that all remote learning will take place Monday and Tuesday. The district will return to the yellow hybrid model Nov. 30.

Howland school officials announced Wednesday the elementary schools will join the high scool and middle school on all-remote learning as of today, with a projected return date of Nov. 30.

McQuaide and Mathews school nurse Jodi Guarnieri have been in contact with the Trumbull County Combined Health District about the school’s situation and have learned the health department is overwhelmed with cases.

McQuaide said he, Guarnieri and the board will make a determination on whether students come back to in-person learning Dec. 1.

“We will look at our situation and the case rates in the community when deciding what to do after Thanksgiving break. At the holiday season, we are concerned of what will happen. We are not sure if we should remain closed for a while after Dec. 1 and be on remote through the holiday season,” he said.

High school Principal James Stitt said he recommends extending the online remote learning through early January and maybe cancel December sports if the coronavirus situation continues to worsen. He said Pymatuning Valley Schools are remote until early January, and Niles City Schools also went all remote until after winter break.

The school district’s COVID-19 dashboard on the district website keeps people informed about the virus numbers in Mathews. McQuaide said the district went 12 weeks with few cases.

Carla Pacileo, president of the Mathews Education Association, said 15 percent of the staff has tested positive for COVID-19 and another 20 percent of the staff is under quarantine because of exposure to the virus.

She said the district can’t find enough substitutes to fill in for sick teachers and can’t combine classrooms because of the need for social distancing. Pacileo said if the schools remain closed with all remote learning, the district is better prepared than it was in March.

Officials said they are not sure what they will do about basketball because it is a contact sport. Stitt said they will have to limit who attends games and the district may be able to livestream games for residents or high school seniors to watch in the high school cafeteria.

“With football there is a helmet and a little bit of a barrier, but not with basketball,” McQuaide said.

He said 60 people may be able to be in the gym for games.

“There will be a lot of challenges we will be facing and hard decisions to make,” McQuaide said, noting some games may have to be canceled.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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