FTIS remains open despite local rise in COVID-19 cases


Maggie Sch

The FTIS COVID-19 Dashboard provides daily updates of COVID-19 cases and quarantines district wide.

     Recently at Highlands High School, the amount of student and faculty quarantines has risen along with the number of overall cases in the county and state. Following the old Fort Thomas Independent Schools (FTIS) Healthy at School closure criteria, all schools should be closed now. However, just a few days before the criteria were met, the guidelines were changed to suggestions and all five schools in the district have remained open. 

     According to the old FTIS Data Dashboard regarding COVID-19 cases and statistics, all schools would move to non-traditional instruction (NTI) learning if there were 25 or more positive cases per 100,000 people countywide. But on October 30, the wording on the dashboard changed to say that meeting any of the closure criteria would only be a “consideration for NTI.” 

     As of November 7, there were 46.3* daily new cases per 100,000 people in Campbell County, close to doubling the amount needed to meet the closure criteria, yet Fort Thomas schools have remained open, confusing students and parents. 

     FTIS Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser addressed the decision not to move into NTI in a video sent out to all Fort Thomas families, assuring that the district’s decision was safe and well-thought-out. 

     Cheser began by addressing the concern of passing the 25+ positive county cases in Campbell County, stating that when that guideline was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back in late March/early April, the tests used to determine positivity were much less accurate and people with few symptoms typically did not get tested. Due to this, when 25 cases were found in a county, they were nearly all severe cases where people experienced many symptoms. 

     Now, with more advanced and accurate testing and widespread awareness of common symptoms, a greater number of people are tested, resulting in a larger number of positive cases by default. 

     Cheser then addressed the rise in local cases and school quarantines. Currently, of the 122 active quarantines, 22 of those quarantines came from exposure to COVID-19 at school, all of which occurred at Johnson Elementary. The other 100 cases all came from non-school exposure, including family and workplace exposure. 

     According to Highlands High School Principal Matthew Bertasso, it appears that students are actually safer in school than out.

      “Students are doing an excellent job following COVID-19 protocol at school. Where I’d like to see improvement would be at outside events. I’ve seen students in larger groups without masks at some local events which could end up leading to a spike in cases.” 

     Cheser echoed the Bertasso during her video, saying that Highlands and the rest of the Fort Thomas schools are very safe places for students to be. All schools in the district are currently and will continue to be “in the green” when it comes to the five key mitigation strategies for managing the spread of the disease: consistent/correct use of masks, social distancing to the largest extent possible, hand hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, and contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department.  

     Bertasso agreed, saying “Students and teachers alike have done a great job following protocol. Students consistently wear their masks and all high-contact areas are always being sanitized.” 

     As stated in the video, to continue the district’s praise, both the Northern Kentucky Health Department and the CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare have sent letters to Campbell County schools saying that they’ve done an excellent job following guidelines and keeping COVID-19 exposure in schools low. 

     Following Cheser’s words and the lack of directive to close from the Department of Public Health, it appears that FTIS will not be planning to close anytime soon. Most students tend to agree with the schools’ decision to remain open.

     Sophomore Casey Stiles has a positive outlook on the district’s decision, saying, “I feel optimistic [about remaining open]. I don’t think we need to go back into NTI even with the rise of cases.” 

     Some other students disagree.

      Senior Jennifer Harrah said, “I’m not a fan of remaining in school. I feel like we should be in NTI not just because of our school-wide cases, but because the county in general has a lot of cases. I feel like we didn’t follow the original closure criteria and that’s a dishonest thing for the school to be doing.” 

     Despite students advocating for both sides, the decision to close will remain in the hands of the school board and public health advisors. 

As Cheser put it, “We wish to remain in-person as long as we safely can.”


*Since there is no number provided for cases per county, this number has been determined using state data and the data collected on the data tracking sheet.