CLINTON COUNTY — A little over a year since the pandemic started, schools see signs of things returning to normal.
And they’re excited to see more and more Americans — including their eligible staffs and students — getting vaccinated.
The number of COVID-19 cases at Wilmington College is now at zero for both the student body and employee, which is consistent with the success it’s enjoyed since the spring semester began in January.
Students have continued to reside on campus and attend mostly in-person classes complemented by some hybrid and online course formats.
In devising its 2020-21 academic calendar, WC opted to skip its traditional spring break week in March as a means for mitigating a potential spread of the virus as the term enters its final weeks. This action also allowed the semester to start a week later than normal in January and, as such, provide more distance between holiday gatherings and the start of classes.
Winter sports commenced in January with fall and spring teams starting competition in March. WC is the only member of the Ohio Athletic Conference not to have missed a game or meet due to COVID issues involving its Fightin’ Quakers student-athletes or its OAC counterparts.
WC President Trevor Bates credits a vigilant campus community with adhering to its effective, virus mitigation measures and a proactive plan for facility sanitation put into place this year.
“Wilmington College has done a great job at keeping the coronavirus at bay on our campus, but my message to our community has been to ‘stay the course.’ I believe our students, faculty and staff appreciate the success we’ve enjoyed so far and are committed to keeping everyone as safe as possible, leading to a successful conclusion to the academic year,” he said.
Bates, who has been vaccinated, said he is encouraged by the ramped-up availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the state and in Clinton County. He sees that fairly recent development as a key to the establishment of the herd immunity component that’s essential for the prospects of a more “normal’” academic year this coming fall.
He noted that, since Ohio’s college and university faculty and staff were not given the state’s priority status as were K-12 teachers and staff, the number of Wilmington College employees to become vaccinated will take some time to catch up with their K-12 counterparts.
The Clinton County Health District, which has worked closely with the college throughout the pandemic, has provided vaccines to many WC faculty and staff in recent weeks. Indeed, with the state’s new directive involving vaccine availability to those 16 and older, it is working with the college on potentially providing the vaccine on campus in April.
The president asked the faculty and staff to alert WC’s Human Relations Office when they’ve received either the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
“While this past year’s pandemic has had sad and tragic consequences for our country and around the world, it also has provided those of us in higher education with an important learning experience on how to both provide a safe campus environment and to be nimble in pivoting to remote learning models when needed,” Bates said. “Kudos to our faculty members for developing and delivering their courses this year with the flexibility required for often-challenging contingencies and to our staff for adapting well in continuing to provide our students with outstanding service in the face of a national crisis.”
Bates said the students have also “learned important lessons” about jobs and careers of tomorrow, in that they’ll look differently than in previous years. He noted the importance of students being able to modify what was previously considered “the status quo.”
“They too have become more resourceful as they adapted to different requirements for living and learning during an unusual year that, hopefully, will ultimately be seen as an anomaly in their lifetimes,” he said.
Wilmington City Schools
Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart told the News Journal that the district has 53.7% of its staff fully vaccinated, and additional staff will receive their second dose soon. After that, 62.4% of the staff will be fully vaccinated.
“We have been fortunate to be in full in-person learning since January 20, 2021 due to the tremendous effort and dedication of our students, staff and families in working together to follow the important safety protocols,” said McCarty-Stewart.
The vaccination program will provide a valuable measure in keeping the virus from spreading in the schools, she said.
“This will be an important proactive way to ensure that our schools will be able to remain open,” she said. “We will continue to work hard in keeping all of our staff and students safe and healthy.”
She expressed her deep appreciation to the Wilmington community during this challenging time.
“Everyone has worked together to help each other out,” she said, expressing thanks to the students, staff and families along with the Clinton County Health Department and health care workers.
Clinton Massie Superintendent Matt Baker said 56% of its staff have been fully vaccinated with both shots and schools have been open for in-person learning five days a week since “day one of school.”
“The Clinton County Health Department has been fantastic in their efforts to get us vaccinated,” said Baker. “Pam Bauer and her crew of nurses deserve high praise for the efficient work they have made of this process.”
Baker told the News Journal the 2020-2021 school year has been a challenge to all stakeholders in and around education.
“Students, staff and parents have all felt their collective responsibilities increase during this pandemic. I am proud to say that Clinton-Massie Local Schools has been flexible enough to offer in-person learning and remote learning this year,” he said. “I am thankful for a staff that has been our foundation as we have built new learning platforms, installed new safety protocols, and pivoted at a moment’s notice.
East Clinton Local
East Clinton’s Superintendent Eric Magee advised that their schools are fully opened with 60% of employees having received the vaccine and “about five awaiting a second shot.”
Magee said this past year has been full of uncertainty with plans needing to be not only altered, but completely re-written — numerous times.
“There have been so many obstacles that districts have had to face. On one hand, it has been draining, not knowing what each phone call was going to bring, not knowing what each press conference would require,” said Magee.
“On the other hand, it is extremely encouraging to see the work of all of our employees. Our teachers have always known how to juggle, but this year has given new meaning to that. Our sometimes unheralded groups, such as cooks and custodians, have been the very front line throughout this entire pandemic. They rose to the occasion for all of our students.
“And to step back and understand the resiliency of our students is absolutely inspiring,” Magee added.
Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch said they’ve successfully vaccinated close to 90 employees. But they have continued to struggle to keep some of our school buildings open due to a lack of employees since reopening in August.
“I’ve been meeting with Pam Bauer from the Clinton County Health Department and my colleagues throughout the county every week. It’s been a tremendous help in planning and preparing for the distribution of the vaccines,” said Lynch. “After our preparation and planning was completed, (School District Nurse) Linda Miller was phenomenal in implementing the district’s distribution plans.”
Lynch said that, as a school district, they seem to be moving closer to triumphing over the pandemic.
“However, before celebrating, we should pause and think of ways we can build up our family and friends within our churches and community who have had to experience a tremendous tragedy or hardship this past year,” he said. “Their trials and tribulations do not compare to the burdens schools were faced with over the summer and throughout the school year.”
He praised everyone doing their best, especially in all the confusion when the pandemic started.
”I give a tremendous amount of praise to all of our employees, parents and our communities in supporting the administration’s decision to reopen the school in August and working even harder to keep the school doors open throughout the year,” Lynch said. ”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574