May delay plans for January 18, mask-optional increase

By: Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (January 7, 2022)  –   In a Tiger Talk released by Loveland Schools this Friday afternoon, Superintendent Mike Broadwater offered some insight into early returns on the outbreak of the COVID Omicron cases.

In short, numbers are up, absences of staff and students are also up. While the final numbers for this first week back following Winter Break won’t be in until Monday, January 10, it is clear cases are on the rise in the Loveland school community. 

Broadwater reminded everyone the mask-optional policy was extended to include the first two weeks back after break ie: January 4-14 with hopes of a transition to more mask-optional students beginning January 18. That may be delayed due to the apparent spike in cases related to the Omicron variant – at least until those cases begin to drop. Broadwater continues to consult with the medical advisory board including Greg Kesterman, the director of Hamilton County Public Health, and Dr. Stephen Feagins the chief clinical officer of Mercy Health to help guide decisions.  

Superintendent Mike Broadwater visited the Loveland Robotics program during 1st week back (Provided)

Broadwater’s message began with an upbeat “welcome back” and a story of his visit with Ms. Stewart and Mrs. Rasmussen checking out “the great stuff” happening with the Loveland Robotics Program as they prepare for the next big competition. His message wrapped up with a reminder this new year of 2022 will be a “pivotal” year for Loveland Schools and work on the strategic vision is set to begin.  

Here is the complete text of the Loveland School Superintendent’s Message to Loveland Tiger Families:

LCSD Superintendent Mike Broadwater (Provided)

Welcome back to school and 2022! I hope all of our families were able to enjoy the break and spend time with family and friends. I know my family enjoyed the break and it was a welcome respite to re-energize for an exciting finish to the school year. I stopped in to visit Ms. Stewart and Mrs. Rasmussen this week to check out the great stuff going on with our Loveland Robotic program as our students gear up for a big competition. The fact that our kids are in school and enjoying the social interaction and developing many skills they cannot in a remote situation has been healthy for our kids and our goal is to continue providing the best possible support for our students as we begin the new year.

As you recall, we extended the mask-optional policy the first two weeks after the break out of concern for higher case numbers after family and friends have been together. Unfortunately, this has come to fruition and the numbers we are seeing are higher than any other period throughout the pandemic.

The full numbers from this week won’t be finalized and reported out until Monday, as they have been all this year, but I can tell you that the snapshot I received today is not promising. Cases involving our school community are climbing. While that appears to be the result of what people did over Winter Break, the effect is that we have had higher student and staff absences. I have had a few parents asking what the attendance rate is, so below is a snapshot from Thursday, January 6. The overall attendance rate is similar to what we would expect to see during the winter months.

Attendance Chart Shows about 11.4 percent of students out across the district

Chart provided

I continue to have conversations with my medical advisory board, along with Greg Kesterman, the director of Hamilton County Public Health, and Dr. Stephen Feagins the chief clinical officer of Mercy Health to help guide these decisions. They are seeing higher case numbers and more hospitalizations than at any point in the pandemic and hospitals are also short-staffed.

While we are hoping to be able to transition to mask-optional for more of our students on January 18, it may be in our best interest to delay that date until the spike in cases related to the omicron variant has started to drop. I will make a final decision next week and communicate it clearly to our families. We want to take cautious steps forward so as to keep our students in the classroom and our staff being able to support their learning.

We have updated our COVID protocols to reflect the latest guidance from Hamilton County Public Health, the Ohio Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control. Those protocols and our current dashboard are available at www.lovelandschools.org/covid.

I know these rules and protocols can sometimes be confusing, but our school nurses have been doing a fantastic job of communicating with our families. The most important thing to remember: If your child is sick, they need to stay home from school – and if your child has a positive COVID test or a COVID exposure, you need to notify their school so contact tracing work can take place.

Vaccination is certainly a family choice, but we have heard from some families that they have had difficulty making appointments for the COVID vaccine. The Hamilton County Public Health Director said that there is a walk-in vaccination clinic at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Norwood every Monday-Friday from 10 am to 5 pm. They can provide vaccinations for everyone 5 and older, and booster shots for anyone 16 and up who qualifies. You can find more information at the Hamilton County Public Health website by following this link.

Strategic Vision Work Launching Soon

The new year is a time when we all naturally think about the future – and 2022 will be a pivotal year for Loveland City Schools. We are launching a strategic vision process to determine the future of the district, and we want you to be involved. I want to hear from all of our stakeholders in regards to the priorities they have for the education of our most valuable asset: Our kids!

The strategic vision process will gather input from across our Loveland City Schools community of parents, students, staff members, and anyone who lives within our district boundaries. We will be working to hear as many voices as possible and come up with a set of future goals for Loveland City Schools. When we have a shared vision of what it means for our students to be successful, we can work together to help our students reach those goals.

A series of community meetings will be announced soon, and if you can’t attend a meeting, we will be using other tools to give you a chance to make your thoughts known. The work that went into building our Portrait of a Tiger will be used as a starting point for this discussion, and we will grow our vision from there. I encourage you to get involved and help us in this important mission.

  • Mike Broadwater, Superintendent, Loveland City Schools