PUTNAM COUNTY — With the surge of COVID-19 cases still on the rise throughout the county, five of the county’s nine school districts have adopted alternative learning models, primarily due to staffing shortages.

In the Columbus Grove and Ottawa-Glandorf districts, a hybrid model is, and has been, in place. Under the system, students alternate between in-person and remote learning models. In the Continental, Miller City-New Cleveland, and Ottoville districts, students in middle and high school attend remotely, while elementary students remain face-to-face.

For all five superintendents, the decision to adopt an alternative learning model was difficult; all recognize the benefits of students in the school, in the classroom, with faculty immediately at hand. However, the reality of faculty and staff members increasingly isolated or quarantined due to infection or contact tracing created the necessity of a hard decision.

For all five districts, the Thanksgiving holiday became a pivotal point, a time for reassessment. For three, a decision has yet to be made. Ottawa-Glandorf Superintendent Don Horstman reports he and the board will come to a decision during the board of education’s next monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1. In both Ottoville and Continental, similar meetings over the course of the Thanksgiving break will determine the immediate future of how classes will be conducted.

But in both Columbus Grove and Miller City, a hard look has led to either the determination to stay the course, or to defer the decision until sufficient information is gathered.

Columbus Grove Superintendent Nick Verhoff, who, after consulting with that district’s board of education, was the first to adopt a hybrid model, said the district’s alternative learning model will stay in place through the end of the second quarter.

In Miller City, Superintendent Kerry Johnson said the district’s middle and high schools students will continue with remote learning until Dec. 7, at which time he and the board of education there hope to have sufficient data to make an educated decision.