Athens Schools On Track To Resume Hybrid Instruction

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The Athens School District is still planning to have students return to in-person instruction the last week of January.

Athens City Schools sign
(Yi-Ke Peng/WOUB)

The district suspended in-person instruction for the first three weeks of January out of concern that the community might see a surge in COVID-19 cases after the holidays.

Superintendent Tom Gibbs told the school board at its meeting Tuesday night that COVID cases have been rising for the past several days and are expected to spike again after Ohio University students return to campus next week.

But case numbers are expected to decline after that and local health officials agree that it is safe to return to a hybrid teaching model under which students are in the classroom two days a week, Gibbs said.

Under the state’s phased vaccination program, teachers are scheduled to begin receiving the coronavirus vaccine starting the week of Feb. 1. The elderly are first in line, however, and Gibbs said it hard to say exactly when teachers will get their shots.

So far, 280 of the district’s 330 permanent employees have signed up to be vaccinated, Gibbs said. Teachers will be receiving the Moderna vaccine, which requires two doses four weeks apart and is not considered fully effective until a week or two after the second shot.

Given this timeline, Gibbs said it is unlikely that students will return to school full-time before the end of the school year.

It will likely be summer before the vaccine is widely available for the general public and there is still no approved vaccine for children. For these reasons, Gibbs said that many of the traditional end-of-the year field trips and social activities will not be held.

He did say that the district is looking at some kind of in-person graduation ceremony for seniors. For example, it might be held outside at the football stadium with limited attendance and proper social distancing.