Bright Local Superintendent Terry Fouch seemed to sum it up best Thursday when he said, “This is uncharted territory for many of us.”
As school administrators were already scrambling to make plans Thursday in anticipation of a pending announcement concerning Covid-19, or the coronavirus, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered that all Ohio schools in grades K-12 be closed after classes on Monday, March 16 through Friday, April 3.
The order includes all public, community, and private K-12 schools in the state, but does not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.
Like other Highland County schools, Fairfield was working on a plan and had already decided what it was doing Friday before the governor made his announcement.
It is giving students Friday off, while teachers and administrators report to work to develop a plan on how to continue to educate their students during the three-week closure.
“We’re going to be prepared. If it never comes we’re still going to be ready,” Superintendent Tim Dettwiller said.
Shortly thereafter, the governor’s announcement was delivered, although most of the county’s superintendents anticipated a two-week shutdown rather than three weeks.
Detwiller said his staff will be working Monday to come up with an academic plan, which will likely include some students working online.
At Bright Local, Fouch said he had called a conference of the building principals and administrative team.
“We’ll take a look at how the educational process can continue for the next three weeks in some semblance,” Fouch said. “We’ll put together a plan as best we can. Most importantly, we want to keep our children safe, and will follow the direction of the experts.”
He said the big question is how to get material into the hands of the students. He said the school district was looking at a modified schedule for Friday to give the staff time to make appropriate plans.
Hillsboro was on spring break the last three days of this week. Superintendent Tim Davis said he knew some kind of closure was coming, and that the administrative plan had been working on a plan, but he didn’t know the closure would come so quick.
He said the administrative team will meet Friday to finalize the plan, and that sometime Friday afternoon he’ll announce the plan on the district’s one-call system and its social media platforms.
While he said he was not yet certain, he said students will likely be on a two-hour delay Monday so staff members will have time to prepare lessons for the three-week closure.
Davis said he believes DeWine will devise some type of plan to move the state standardized tests back, since they were supposed to start around the time students will return to school.
Lynchburg-Clay Superintendent Brett Justice said the school had long ago scheduled a waiver day Friday with teachers only reporting to school. He said the staff would spend about one hour on personal development, then would start preparing packages for the students to take home Monday.
Justice said that for elementary students, packages focusing on certain subject areas will be prepared for students to take home during the break. High school and middle school students will have “Google classrooms.” He said students that do not have access to the internet or a device will receive hard copies of assignments.
Greenfield Superintendent Quincey Gray could not immediately be reached for comment. But the school’s Facebook page had the following message: “Under the direction of Governor DeWine, the Greenfield Exempted Village School District will be closed beginning at the end of the day Monday, March 16 through Friday, April 3. School will resume on Monday, April 6. We will be on a two-hour delay Friday, March 13. On March 16, your child will bring a packet of educational resources home along with their school supplies that will be needed to complete the tasks. We understand that there are still questions about athletics and spring break. We are awaiting additional information from Governor DeWine, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, and the Highland County Health Department. Please check back often for updates. In addition, we will utilize our all-call system. We appreciate your patience!”
The governor’s office said Thursday that over the next 72 hours, the Ohio Department of Education will develop guidance for K-12 schools to ensure the continuity of important student services, including a strategy for providing meals.
The schools were not the only entities impacted by the governor’s announcement.
The Highland County Senior Citizen in Hillsboro closed Thursday and said it would remain closed until further notice. It also postponed a March 28 performance by Elvis tribute artist Tyler Christopher. Executive Director Mechell Frost said she had talked to Christopher and that he was willing to return at a later date this year to be announced.
“We will keep you posted on our return for activities and events. At this time, Meals on Wheels is still running as usual. We look forward to seeing you all soon,” Frost said.
The Cabin Fever Arts Festival at the Southern State Community College on Saturday, March 21 has been canceled, as has the Highland County Republican Women’s luncheon on Friday, March 13.
The 18th annual Kids Trout Derby at Rocky Fork State Park, including shooting events, all scheduled for April 4, has also been canceled. The ODNR Division of Wildlife said the net will still be installed and rainbow trout will still be stocked for people who want to fish, but there will be no organized event.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.