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ONTARIO -- More Ontario students have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last eleven days of class than during the entire 2020-2021 school year.

There were 61 students who tested positive for COVID-19 last school year, Supt. Lisa Carmichael said. There have been 64 students to test positive since classes resumed last month.

“The other day we had 17 positive cases. It was just madness,” Carmichael said.

Ontario is not the only district in the area with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

Shelby City Schools announced Thursday it would cancel classes Friday in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The district has had a total of 50 students and 2 staff members test positive since the beginning of the school year, Supt. Tim Tarvin told Richland Source on Thursday. There are currently 38 active student cases and no active staff cases.

By comparison, a total of 72 students and 36 staff members tested positive over the course of the 2020-2021 school year.

"Many students are displaying symptoms, with the most common being headache, sore throat, and stomach ache," Tarvin said. "The majority of our positive cases originated from community contact, but now we are seeing an increase in positive cases as a result of classroom contact.

Madison Supt. Rob Peterson told Richland Source on Thursday the district has identified a total of 75 cases among students and staff since school started. About two-thirds of those cases involve students.

“I can’t say one building has been hit harder than others, we’ve had cases in all buildings,” Peterson said.

Last year, the district had a total of 69 staff cases and 141 student cases. The district’s staff and student bodies combined equal almost 3,300 people.

Peterson said he’s seen an increase in voluntary mask wearing throughout the district recently. When asked whether administrators will reconsider a mask requirement, he stated that nothing is off the table.

“We will consider any and all options that are available to us if necessary,” he said.

Remote learning is also an option, but it’s one Peterson and other local superintendents hope to avoid.

“We’re trying to monitor it closely, keep a close watch on things. We could have to go to remote learning in a specific building or we could need to do so across the district,” he said.

Remote learning has already begun in other parts of the region. Crestline students spent the latter half of this week learning virtually after classes were cancelled due to a staffing shortage on Tuesday.

Students at Lexington Local Schools, Crestview Middle School and Crestview High School won’t return to their buildings after Labor Day weekend -- they’ll all be remote from Sept. 7 through Sept. 17.

Supt. Jeremy Secrist told Richland Source Wednesday afternoon that 62 students and staff members have tested positive since the start of the school year.

Local data from Lexington was not immediately available, but archived data from the Ohio Department of Health states that 83 Lexington students and 45 staff tested positive last year. 

The district is also currently seeing increased absences due to COVID-19, quarantines and general illness.

“All of this has taken a toll on the buildings and staff,” Secrist said in an email. “We are trying to cover classrooms, bus routes and food service with subs, other staff and administrators.”

Secrist said the staffing issue means continuing to operate in person is “not sustainable.” He hopes that the two weeks of remote learning to begin next week will allow the Lexington school community time to get healthy.

“We will continue to have discussions about student and staff health, as well as how to ensure we stay in the classroom during this pandemic,” he added. “I know everyone would love for COVID to be over, but it isn't.

"It has evolved and we need to evolve with it to ensure we can properly educate our students and keep our staff and students healthy.”

Carmichael said staffing is not an issue at Ontario, but the district announced Tuesday that it would implement a temporary mask requirement in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the district from going remote.

“We had a couple protesters today, but they were peaceful, they were standing off to the side, they weren’t impeding traffic,” Carmichael said Wednesday afternoon.

Despite some resistance, she said there have been relatively few problems with the new rule inside school buildings.

“I’ve been out at all our schools this morning and I would say 95 percent of the students are wearing their masks,” she said. “A few of the kids are coming in wearing a face shield -- that’s fine.”

“We're just doing all that we can right now to keep our kids in school. The last thing we want to do is go to remote learning,” she added.

General illness and COVID-19 exposure (quarantining is optional) are also keeping kids out of class.

On Monday, there were 275 students absent. On Tuesday, there were 280. The district has a total enrollment of about 2,100 students.

It’s unknown how many of those students were exposed to COVID-19 or symptomatic.

Carmichael said she’s been asked about what would trigger a transition to online learning.

“If we get to 20 percent of our district-wide students out, I may consider it,” she said.

She asked parents to be patient with the mask mandate, which she hopes will only be temporary.

She added that the board will discuss the district’s protocols further at its next board meeting on Sept. 14.

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com