Schools won’t re-open this spring

By Anthony Conchel - And Scott Halasz - Aim Media Midwest

Ohio’s K-12 schools will continue remote learning for the rest of the current academic year and there is no guarantee that won’t continue in the fall.

Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement Monday during his daily media briefing, saying that despite a positive trend, the coronavirus continues.

“To go back to school now with a relatively small amount of time left … that’s probably not a good idea even if the health situation was resolved, which obviously it’s not,” DeWine said.

“We have flattened the curve, but it remains dangerous. The situation is fluid. We now have eight or nine days straight of fairly straight line in regards to hospitalizations. That’s good news. We’ll feel a lot better when they start going down. “

DeWine said no decision about the 2020-21 school year has been made, but hinted there could be a blended system.

“We are simply not in a position yet to make that decision,” he said. “Schools are in fact already preparing for the fall thinking about how they would handle the situation (social distancing) if they were back in school. I applaud them for that. I was really impressed and delighted of all the thinking going into this already.”

Under a blended system, there would be some distance learning and some in-person learning, DeWine said.

“That’s just a possibility and also each school district is going to be different,” he said.

Five weeks remain in the 2019-2020 school year for most districts.

Brian Petrie, superintendent of Cardington-Lincoln Schools, said in a statement: “We are deeply disappointed that our students will not be able to benefit from coming back together for face to face instruction for the remainder of this year. But we understand the importance of the health and safety of our community.

He added, “We are especially disappointed for our graduating seniors as they will not be able to experience their final days with us as they had been looking forward to for years. In spite of this news, I know that the creativity and perseverance within our school community will help us celebrate them in the best way possible.”

Petrie said he hopes to award scholarships in June and have commencement in late July.

“The Northmor administration will be working this week and we will share the learning and meal plan for May by next week. Stay safe and healthy,” read the school’s Facebook post.

Moving forward, DeWine expressed concern for certain groups of students who have to take part in remote learning — children with special needs, children who have health challenges, children with limited or no access to the internet, and children without a supportive home life.

“We have to remember these students,” DeWine said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria said his office will continue to work to “provide Ohio students with the best possible experience given the circumstances for the remainder of the school year.”

Neighboring states Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana are among 27 that also have cancelled classes due to the pandemic.

Cases reported

With Ohio still working out its plan for the first-phase reopening of its coroavirus-ravaged economy on May 1, the state reported 1,317 more virus cases — apparently fueled by state prison inmates — and 38 additional deaths on Monday.

Cases recently have spiked in Marion and Pickaway counties due to prison numbers.

The new numbers brought the state’s total of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 12,919. The confirmed and probable deaths total reached 509.

In Morrow County 23 total cases have been reported, with 20 confirmed and three listed as probable, according to the Morrow County Health District. Of those 12 are males and 11 are females.

Eight residents have recovered locally. Age range is 23 to 81, with the average age of 46.

The epidemiology team has been conducting case investigations, and all close contacts will be notified, according to the health district.

Commissioner Stephanie Bragg reminds residents there is “a fine line with protecting rights of individuals and the public health” involving privacy laws. That is why names and details of cases are not revealed.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was passed in 1996 and is put into use to protect patient rights.

Funding help

Bragg spoke at the health district’s meeting via Zoom, addressing the local impact.

The health district received a grant of $30,182 for a COVID-19 Response Grant. It will help cover some wages, mileage reimbursement and communications, including the Zoom application.

“Every health department across the country is in this situation; nobody knows how to budget for a pandemic,” Bragg said.

The board reported about 57 percent of the levy funding has been received.

Maintaining a strong Facebook presence and using a daily email update to community partners has gone well, she said.

“We’re making adjustments and re-thinking everything. It’s been a crazy month.”

The statewide numbers are going up due to prison testing, Bragg noted. Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, the number of cases likely will “ramp up again.“

She said she is working with the Amish community regarding the Owl Creek Auction. She said they have put social distancing and cleaning measures in place. She also reminds residents that camping is not allowed at this time.

By Anthony Conchel

And Scott Halasz

Aim Media Midwest