Lebanon City Schools will close Wednesday through Friday this week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and quarantines, the school board determined Monday evening.
The move came as children now account for more than one in every four COVID-19 cases in Ohio, the highest proportion since the pandemic began. A week ago, only one of five cases across the state were in children.
Warren County has the state's third-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infections in children, Ohio Department of Health data as of Tuesday shows. Clermont County ranks at No. 2.
Lebanon officials said 17 students newly tested positive as of Monday, with another 10 waiting on test results. Nearly 300 students were identified as close contacts and need to be quarantined.
As of Monday morning, 919 students in the district were dealing with quarantines. There are about 5,500 students in the district, superintendent Isaac Seevers said.
There are also more students who called in sick or have otherwise been absent in the last two weeks.
"The loss of instructional time is really affecting our staff's ability to educate students," Seevers said during Monday night's board meeting.
Students will not be required to log on to remote learning lessons during the "pause" this week, though staff will still be required to report to work and will be available to answer student questions. Students will return to school on Tuesday, officials said.
The district reported more than 10% of its students were exposed to the virus last week. The board met last Wednesday to discuss a change to its mask policy.
"Our position has been that up to this point we're going to follow the data of what we're seeing locally," Seevers said. "We've been in school for a little over two weeks now. And we have what we now are seeing to be good data to drive a discussion and decision (about masks)."
Masks are now required in Lebanon City Schools, officials said.
Other schools in Ohio are facing large numbers of COVID-19 cases and quarantines. More than 100 of Bethel Tate High School's students were reported absent last week due to COVID-19 related cases, sending the entire school into remote learning, officials said. All students are to remain in remote learning through Tuesday. In 2018, Bethel Tate High School had an enrollment of 515 students.
"Most of the absences are close contacts who are in quarantine. The majority of our positive and quarantine cases are coming from extracurricular activities and not from our K-12 classroom settings," a notice from the district reads.
Bethel Tate Schools strongly recommends but does not require, masks to be worn inside school buildings.
In Highland County, the Fairfield Local School District was closed last week because 15% of the student body being absent due to illness. The 900-student district cited COVID-19 along with RSV and bronchial infections as the cause of the absences. It reopened Monday with masks required through nine school days through Sept. 19, unless students and staff can't remain three feet apart or a waiver was granted.
Lebanon City Schools board of education also voted to enforce a three-week universal mask policy. Mask exemption forms are available.