Closings imminent for school districts

By Martin Graham - [email protected]

As the State of Ohio gears up for three weeks of no school beginning Monday due to the spread of the coronavirus, the local school districts worked Friday to prepare themselves and students for continued education from home.

“This is an ever-changing situation, obviously an unprecedented time, especially in Ohio for us to have an impending closure,” Washington Court House City Schools Superintendent Tom Bailey said on Friday. “We are taking direction from the Ohio Department of Health and from the Governor of the State of Ohio, Mike DeWine. Schools will be closed starting on Monday and they will be closed for three weeks. As long as there is no change in that we will be back in session on April 6th.”

Bailey said during this time the district will have buildings closed for all activities and to all students. Also during this time the district is expected to implement its Remote Learning Program to offer courses electronically or via paper handouts.

“That is the reason for the two-hour delay (Friday), teachers were getting ready,” Bailey said. “I visited several of the buildings (Friday) and the teachers have been phenomenal, along with our administrative staff to get ready for the students. I know at the high school they already do a lot of communication with students via Google Email as well as Google Classroom, and they will continue to do that. I do want to let parents of middle school students know that if you sent in a signed form, your child will be receiving a Chromebook and a charger to take home for this extended period of time. Please make sure your child knows how to take care of that, please take care of those like they are your own because we need those back when we return to school.”

The students at Belle Aire Intermediate and Cherry Hill Primary will get paper information coming home, and Bailey said the teachers are working hard to put together a plan to help all children continue to learn and retain the knowledge. Bailey also asked for patience as they continue to work to get better and refine the Remote Learning Program, as it is a new process for the district.

Finally, the district’s Big Blue Bus program has been actively working with the state and U.S. Department of Agriculture on a plan to provide meals to students during this extended closure. The district said it knows that many students rely on meals at school for their nutrition and they aim to make sure they receive food.

Miami Trace Local Schools decided on Friday following the national state of emergency being declared by President Donald Trump to completely close the district.

“This means no one (staff, public, outside organizations) are allowed on campus unless directed by their supervisor,” a Facebook post from the district said. “This includes all indoor and outdoor facilities. The Miami Trace Local School District plans to provide meals to students during the school closing. Our goal is to have this up and running by the end of next week. Please check your email and follow the district website and social media for more details. Due to the Governor’s order, Miami Trace High School will be closed until April 6. Transcript requests will be processed one day per week. If you need to have a transcript processed, please send an email to high school principal, Rob Enochs, at [email protected] or call 740-333-4700 and leave a message for your request.”

On Thursday, Superintendent David Lewis circulated a letter to the district explaining how they are handling the Governor’s closing. He explained in his letter that the last day for students was Friday and they expect to return Monday, April 6.

“As of now, all district events, including extra-curricular, athletics, trips and external group visits are suspended until Monday, April 6,” Lewis said. “Further updates will be provided as they are made available. If permitted to return to school on April 6, our originally scheduled spring break of April 9-13 may be canceled.”

During the three-week shutdown, Lewis wrote in the letter that teachers will be providing education activities that focus on the review, reinforcement and application of learning standards. The goal of these “Distance Learning” activities is to keep the students connected to their academic progress while away from the classroom.

“We greatly appreciate your support for our students as they experience this unexpected hiatus from school,” Lewis wrote. “Once again, please stay connected to district updates via email, social media and the district website. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

Also announced Friday, Fayette Progressive Schools will be closing programs as well to adhere to the governor’s decision. Starting Monday, the 0 to 3-year-old program and the preschool 3 to 5-year-old program will be closed.

“We have a nice sized plan in place,” Stacy Hazelton, PR specialist for the Fayette County Board of DD, said. “We have no services for our early intervention programming which is birth to 3-year-olds. They do a lot of home visiting and do a lot of play groups here and all of that has been canceled. In addition, our preschool is also closed. The early intervention staff is communicating with families online, they have a service set up through the state which is a remote, computerized style of service where they can communicate with families about their services and how they work with children. For preschool we are sending home some lists of interactive activities that parents can do in a more play-based environment, not just ‘drill-in-kill’ work sheets.”

Hazelton said they are staying aware of the fact they could stay closed following the three weeks, but are continuing to “play it by ear,” and wait for more instruction from the state. Additionally, she said the other impact is on the staff, and each employee is adjusting to see who can continue working from home in a remote environment or who can continue to have an office presence during this extended break.

Director of the Community Action Commission of Fayette County Bambi Baughn said on Friday the Rock-a-Bye Daycare and Headstart programs are going to remain open to help assist the community.

“We have been in contact with the federal level and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, who said it is up to us locally to decide whether we close or not,” Baughn said. “The current plan is to take it day-by-day and listen to guidance from the Governor. Currently, the early Headstart program — who do a lot of home visits around the county — have found a way to remotely complete visits. Additionally, parents who do not feel comfortable sending their kids will not be kicked out of the program or have their attendance records impacted. We want to be open for parents who need our services. They can feel free though to make other arrangements at this time, but we will stay open until we are told we have to close down.”

Stay with the Record-Herald for more updates on closings and delays due to COVID-19 in a future edition of the paper.

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.

By Martin Graham

[email protected]