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Bellaire schools switch to remote instruction with 25 percent of students absent

BELLAIRE — Bellaire Local School District has joined the list of schools impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and switching to remote learning.

According to an online statement from Superintendent Darren Jenkins, remote learning began Tuesday and will extend to Dec. 4. Parents are advised to monitor their child’s social media for updates.

“We will reassess our situation on an ongoing basis,” Jenkins stated. He added that while classroom learning offers superior instructions, the absentee rate has reached 25 percent.

“The clear majority of this 25 percent were no active COVID cases nor those students who have been quarantined as close contacts. Rather, most of these absentees were non-COVID related,” he said.

He commended staff for enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing policies.

“Although we have had COVID cases brought into the school, we have had no COVID spread while students attended school. This is in no small part due to our student following safety protocols, such as wearing masks,” he stated.

School officials could not be reached Tuesday for further comment.

So far, Union Local School District is operating by remote until Nov. 24. Extracurricular activities are postponed until Nov. 28 for reassessment.

Bridgeport School District had plans to resume full-time learning this week. Shadyside School District will hold remote learning until after Thanksgiving with the hope of returning to in-person classes the week of Nov. 30.

Barnesville Exempted School District is holding a hybrid model, while Martins Ferry City School District plans to reopen to in-person learning Nov. 30. St. Clairsville-Richland City School District also hopes to resume classes after Thanksgiving.

St. Mary’s in St. Clairsville intended to resume in-person learning this week. East Richland Christian School has also been holding classes online.

Belmont County Deputy Health Director Robert Sproul has meanwhile updated Belmont County’s numbers, with 1,602 positive cases since the pandemic’s onset. There are 741 people currently isolated with active cases, and 818 have recovered. The number of people hospitalized has increased from 12 to 15 since Monday, and 28 people have died after contracting the virus, including nine inmates at Belmont Correctional Institution.

Sproul added that while Belmont College has announced it will conduct classes virtually until the end of Thanksgiving break, other colleges are considering similar moves.

All of the school officials also await the latest word from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office. Stricter mandates for face coverings and social distancing measures have come down last week, with retailers facing a day’s closure for failure to enforce procedures, and new orders have been signed limiting public gatherings and activities. On Tuesday, DeWine announced a statewide curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., beginning Thursday and lasting 21 days. In a talk Tuesday, he said a violation is a misdemeanor-level offense.

DeWine has said one of his primary concerns is hospitals becoming overwhelmed with cases and health care workers falling ill.

Further measures such as closing down gyms and bars or even a complete lockdown will depend on continuing coronavirus case numbers.

The Ohio National Guard will be conducting free coronavirus testing 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville. Visitors are asked to use the exit off of U.S. 40.

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