Liberty Center Local Schools

Liberty Center Local Schools Board of Education members were recognized Monday as part of National School Boards Appreciation Month. Above, Superintendent Richie Peters (right) hands a certificate to Jeff Benson, who has served the district for 17 years.

LIBERTY CENTER — Liberty Center Local Schools Superintendent Richie Peters said the state is seeing two new tools that add promise to students’ and staff’s ability to continue learning in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peters Monday reported to the district’s board of education, stating no spike in COVID-related cases has been noted since classes resumed Jan. 4. He said, while the district has plans in place, there is currently no foreseeable need to switch to remote learning.

Peters said, while the district was on break, state changes to quarantine protocol were announced and the state is beginning plans to enter phase 1B of its vaccination process.

Peters said the district has done everything “by the book” in terms of requiring facial coverings, social distancing and sanitization. Following a state study of select Ohio schools, it was determined very few students were testing positive for COVID when they were identified for quarantine due to all of the safeguards in place for schools.

The previous guidelines required a quarantine of any student within six feet of another that tests positive for COVID-19. Peters said social distancing has been a challenge for the district with limited space in the classrooms. He added, at the high school level, students travel from classroom to classroom, spreading the potential for students quarantined.

The previous state guidelines determined anyone who is considered a close contact — closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes within a 24-hour period — with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 should be quarantined, whether or not they were wearing a face mask.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the state was breaking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and would no longer quarantine those close contacts as long as the exposure occurred in a classroom setting with all individuals wearing masks. Quarantines will still be utilized for close contacts that occur in extra-curricular settings, including sports, as well as if masking and distancing protocols are not being followed in the classroom.

Peters said, while this will not apply to a setting such as a cafeteria as students need to lower a facial covering in order to eat and drink, it could apply to areas such as the district’s busing system.

“(Social distancing) was the biggest issue, but the state made changes,” Peters said. “We’re grateful for that.”

Peters also discussed the state’s phase 1B of COVID vaccination as the process will soon begin considering school personnel.

“This is great news for schools across the state and country,” he said.

Peters said he felt people understand students need to be in school to receive the best education. He noted adults are more at-risk for complications stemming from COVID, and vaccination efforts can help keep staff members safer.

Peters said he continues to keep in contact with the county’s health department, but added there is currently no given time line as to when school personnel can begin receiving the vaccine. He said there is currently hope this can progress in early February, and an anonymous staff survey is being taken for the health department to estimate how many are willing to be vaccinated.

Peters said he will be able to provide more information on this process at the next board meeting.

“This is two great wins for us as far as COVID is concerned,” Peters said. “We had the goal to start and remain in-person, and these help us meet that goal.”

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