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Ohio elementary school forced online after principal and teacher test positive for COVID

The Mentor, Ohio elementary school moved to online-only learning a day early after the school principal and a teacher tested positive over Labor Day weekend.

Less than a week after welcoming back students, an elementary school in Ohio shifted to online-only classes after its principal and a teacher tested positive for COVID-19, according to administrators.

The Mentor Public School district in Lake County, Ohio announced the cases in a letter to parents over Labor Day weekend that said two staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement to NBC News, MPS spokesperson Kristen Kirby confirmed the two positive cases and said two other faculty members are in isolation following COVID symptoms.

"We continue to work closely with the Lake County General Health District to determine if it's appropriate to come back to school on Thursday," Kirby said, noting that testing and tracing efforts are underway. "At this point, we don't know if the cases are connected or not."

Kirby confirmed that the district's middle and high schools opened Tuesday for in-person teaching as scheduled.

The school's students spent just three days at in-person classes before these COVID cases forced them home early.

In an August 14 YouTube message to the school community, Superintendent Bill Porter outlined the Mentor Public School system’s plan for hybrid in-person and virtual classes beginning on September 2.

When Mentor's school year began last Wednesday, high school students reported to class in cohorts staggered over three days based on the letter of their last name, while all elementary students attended class in-person Wednesday through Friday. All facilities were sterilized after the first day of classes on Wednesday. Face masks are required for students grade 3 and above on buses and in schools.

All Mentor students are scheduled to start "remote Wednesdays" this week so facilities can be deep cleaned weekly for the remainder of the fall quarter, which ends October 30.

According to the hybrid plan, high school and middle school students will report to in-person class twice weekly, and sign in to virtual Zoom class three days weekly. Elementary school students currently plan to attend school four days weekly, with Wednesdays remote.

Porter said that Mentor Public Schools would proceed with this hybrid model through the end of the quarter as long as Lake County remained yellow or orange in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, a color-coded map of the state’s 88 counties, telling parents to prepare to shift to fully online instruction if the county were to move to red or purple — the two highest levels.

“All of these plans continue to be subject to change at any time,” Porter said in the video message.

In August, Lake County had recently shifted from orange to yellow, which Porter said was a good sign for schools reopening as scheduled.

As of September 8, Lake County remains at yellow — the lowest level — which indicates “public health emergency: active exposure and spread.”

Lake County has recorded 1,438 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and has a rate of 43.45 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to the most recently available data on the Ohio state coronavirus portal.

A spokesperson for the Lake County General Health District declined to comment on the Hopkins Elementary cases and said that the public health office "continues to work with any school impacted by COVID-19."