CIRCLEVILLE — In an open letter to the community, all four public Pickaway County School Districts have announced they will move to a building by building system for determining whether students learn in person or move classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, signed by the superintendents of Circleville City Schools, Logan Elm Local Schools, Teays Valley Local Schools, and Westfall Local Schools shared the work they’ve been doing with Pickaway County Public Health (PCPH) to provide the best opportunity for students.

“As of last week, PCPH has empowered the county schools to examine our own building and district health data in the event the county moves to a red or purple level under the Ohio Public Health Advisory System,” the letter states. “For instance, if the county were to move to the red level, the county schools will examine cases and quarantine numbers in their own schools. They will not move directly to a hybrid model automatically.”

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Public Health Advisory System is “a color-coded system designed to supplement existing statewide orders through a data-driven framework to assess the degree of the virus’ spread and to engage and empower individuals, businesses, communities, local governments, and others in their response and actions.”

The system has four levels, yellow, orange, red and purple. Each level has different guidelines that grow. Pickaway County is currently level two orange and the public is asked to decrease in-person interactions outside the household, avoid contact with anyone considered high risk, and limit unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities.

Adam Negley, PCPH health commissioner, said they’ve seen the efforts put in place by the districts since the start of the school year.

“Across all districts, we have found committed students, faculty, staff and administration who are all working hard to adhere to the best practices recommended by the Ohio Department of Health and the CDC,” he said. “We closely monitor all cases of COVID-19 with a connection to schools and at this time, we are not seeing significant outbreaks or spread associated with in-school instruction.”

The schools are still working with PCPH on specific bench marks that would trigger a change in whether students would go to online learning or part-time classroom learning. In the letter, the districts said those would be announced in the coming weeks.

“Pickaway County Public Health will continue to work closely with the school districts as conditions in Pickaway County change,” Negley said. “We will provide recommendations to individual districts based on factors such as the number of active cases and outbreaks associated with the school district and the ability of the district to implement COVID-19 safety strategies. We will also continually assess county-level data such as COVID-19 infection rates and test positivity rates to also help schools make decisions regarding in-person instruction plans.”

In the letter, superintendents shared what they’re doing in schools to help resume in-person learning and follow the Ohio Department of Health guidelines to benefit students.

“From Ashville to Williamsport, Circleville to Laurelville and everywhere in between, we all have a vested interest in ensuring our kids have a safe and sustainable environment to learn,” they wrote. “For that reason we encourage you to keep fighting this unprecedented virus by practicing social distancing wherever you go, wearing masks when you leave each day, withholding your student from school if they have taken a COVID-19 test, playing it safe by screening your students for symptoms of COVID-19 each day before sending them to school Together we have the ability to fend off this virus, keep our students in school and keep our schools open to in-person learning each week so they can succeed in academics.”

Negley said the virus is in Pickaway County, echoing the superintendents and advised the community stay vigilant.

“While the schools have done a great job during the first nine weeks of the school year, we have seen an increase in overall cases locally and statewide,” he said. “The virus is clearly still here and spreading. We can’t let our guard down and must follow the lead of our schools by taking COVID-19 prevention just as seriously in all other aspects of our lives. This means masking up wherever we go, social distancing at all times, washing hands regularly and staying home if we are sick.”

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