MIAMI VALLEY — Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon that schools will be going on an extended three-week spring break starting on Monday.
“We have today again consulted with experts, so we are announcing today that children in the state will have an extended spring break of 3 weeks. We will review it afterwards. This will begin on Monday,” DeWine posted on Thursday afternoon on Twitter.
“At the close of school on Monday is when the school closure starts until April 3. All K-12 schools: Public, private, charter,” DeWine went on to post on Twitter. “We have a responsibility to save lives. We could have waited to close schools, but based on advice from health experts, this is the time to do it.”
The Miami Valley Today is working on gathering local reactions on how this will impact local schools. Local schools are currently waiting for a directive from the Ohio Department of Education on this order.
The current coronavirus numbers for Ohio include five confirmed cases, 30 negative test results, 52 people under investigation, and 333 people under health supervision. The confirmed cases included people in a 55-year-old man from Trumbull County, a 53-year-old male from Stark County, and three people in Cuyahoga County.
Miami East Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rappold said DeWine’s announcement has “more questions than answers.” Rappold said the district has two weeks of electronic work to be completed by students. Rappold said he is waiting for more direction from the Ohio Department of Education.
Cancellations began earlier this week as the OMEA band and choir performance held on Friday has been cancelled, state wrestling has been postponed indefinitely, student observation at Hobart is cancelled until further notice, FFA invitational at Washington Courthouse has been cancelled on Saturday, the government class visit to the Miami County Courthouse has been cancelled for March 19, and FFA invitation in Celina on March 21 has been postponed.
The district also noted its pandemic policy was reviewed by the Miami County Public Health officials and will make adjustments as recommended.
“As always, the safety of our students, staff and families remains our top priority. We will act in an abundance of caution to protect everyone’s health and well being,” Rappold said in the letter. Miami East will attend school on both Friday and Monday and close for the three week period.
Milton-Union Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Brad Ritchey said school will be in session on Friday to allow students get their belongings and to receive instructions on learning at home.
“We’ll be using (Friday) for lesson delivery. The governor used the term ‘extended spring break,’ and I don’t know what that means … should we provide some learning or do we take it literally,” Ritchey said. Ritchey said “the school person in me” hopes to continue learning during the state mandated break, but is waiting on clarification from Ohio Department of Education.
Earlier on Thursday, Ritchey said the district posted several information materials for parents and caregivers to review for both home and school health. Materials included an update about the COVID-19 virus and how to talk to children about it and keeping healthy with handwashing tips.
Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said schools within the district will be open, as scheduled, on Friday, March 13. The school day will operate under the previously-planned two hour early dismissal, after which the students will have a week of spring break.
Thompson said he is waiting to hear from the Ohio State Department or the governor’s office with regard to how the additional two weeks away from school will be handled, including whether they will be classified as “calamity” days, or if educational instruction will need to continue via e-learning avenues.
The district has already been preparing ways to provide this instruction to students in the event of a closure, Thompson said, so those details will be finalized as soon as more concrete information is received from state agencies regarding how to proceed.
“The week of spring break will give us time to collect more information and facts about how this will go,” Thompson said. “As we get more details, we will inform parents and families immediately and keep them updated as things progress.”
In a message to all staff, Thompson recommended teachers consider sending students home with books and/or other materials they may deem necessary in the event that instruction will need to continue at home. He reiterated that spring break will be held as planned, with no lessons delivered during this time.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper stated, “In accordance with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s executive order Thursday afternoon, Troy City Schools will be closed for three weeks beginning Monday, March 16. The final day for students before the three-week closing will be Friday, March 13.”
Effective Friday, March 13, school field trips and district-wide activities, including practices and events, will be postponed until further notice.
Troy City School’s spring break will continue to be observed the week of April 6.
Prior to DeWine’s announcement on Thursday, Troy Christian Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Wilber said they have been preparing to “provide continuity of instruction” in the event that the schools were forced to close for a prolonged period of time.
“We have had a plan in place to provide the option of distance learning for our students if the need were to arise, however we have expanded that to accommodate the longer term impact that this situation could create,” Wilber said. “Our technology department has been working with our teachers to help ensure the delivery of quality content to our students from home. We are able to use our school learning management system in conjunction with the Google Suite to make this happen.”
Wilber added that a “difficult decision” was made to cancel the TCS’s enrichment, service, and missions week, during which seventh through 12th-graders were planning on traveling to various locations throughout the world.
Newton Local Schools Superintendent Pat McBride also said earlier Thursday they are preparing to use Friday to teach students how to complete their required work during the three-week shut down. The district also will continue to observe its spring break from April 6-10 as scheduled.
Covington Exempted Village School District Superintendent Gene Gooding said a letter was sent home with students Thursday to inform parents and families about the district’s handling of the situation, including the “usual precautions that we take during a normal flu season.”
Prior to DeWine’s announcement, Gooding said if closings were to happen for a short period of time, the use of “blizzard bags” will be implemented, as needed.
“Blizzard bags are essentially assignments that are given to the students to complete at home in lieu of activities that would have been completed during the missed school day,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, Piqua Catholic School Principal Brad Zimmerman said they plan to keep families updated on further measures that may need to take place.
“We offer our prayers for those who have been infected with COVID-19 and any illness,” Zimmerman said. “We hope we can find the means to slow and stop the spread of these germs. It’s a call to action for all of us to battle this virus.”
The pandemic also has impacted other youth activities. According to an email sent by Demetria Woods, extension educator, the Ohio State University Administration advised all county extension offices, including Miami County, to cancel all 4-H face-to-face activities through March 31. The activities include club meetings, Quality Assurance, clinics, skillathons, trainings, food and fundraisers and orientations for volunteers.
Tipp City Schools’ School Community Relations Coordinator Liz Robbins said Tipp City schools are currently in discussion stages for planning purposes. Updates may come later this week.
The Miami Valley Today will continue to update this story. The Miami Valley Today is also awaiting an update from the Upper Valley Career Center.
Melanie Yingst, Aimee Hancock, and Sam Wildow contributed to this story.