Schools across Ohio will stay closed for the remainder of the school year while classes continue remotely, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday.
DeWine, who was the first governor in the nation to shutter schools statewide, said his latest decision stems from concern for the continued safety of students, teachers and communities. He said returning students to their classrooms could lead to new cases of COVID-19.
DeWine said teachers and administrators also worried that another disruption to a school year already interrupted by the coronavirus might negatively affect students, who need continuity.
The governor said no decision has been made about the fall. He urged state and local education leaders to be considering plans to address the needs of students with disabilities, those with health risks, those lacking internet access and those who might not have a stable home life.
Miami Trace Local Schools Superintendent David Lewis wrote a letter to the parents in the school district on Monday:
“As you probably know by now, Governor DeWine made the announcement that the remainder of the 19-20 school year will be completed via distance learning. I’m sure that you share in our disappointment, as we were hopeful to see our students and provide some closure for this school year. We assure you that we will continue to provide appropriate instructional activities through the school calendar year, ending May 15, 2020,” the letter reads.
“With the uncertainty surrounding the guidelines associated with COVID-19, many questions remain regarding events such as graduation,” the letter continues. “The administrative team and Board of Education will continue to work behind the scenes to make decisions as we move forward. Please continue to monitor your email and social media accounts for further information. Thank you and stay well.”
A statement from Washington Court House City Schools reads:
“While we are sad that we will not get to see our students for the remainder of the year, we will remain innovative, flexible, and resilient in our work to sustain education and nutrition throughout our community. Blue Lions are resilient. We will do everything we can to continue to engage, inspire, and grow our students, no matter where they are!
“For questions regarding your child or children’s emergency remote learning, please email their teacher or principal for more information. We are doing our best to adhere to the Governor’s Stay Home Ohio order, so availability by phone may be limited during this time. While voicemails are being checked regularly, the best way to reach our staff at this time is by email. Be sure to follow our official social media accounts for the most up-to-date information available, as we will continue to share it there as soon as it becomes available.”
Other developments Monday related to the virus in Ohio:
Ohio inmates make up nearly one in four of the state’s coronavirus cases following a spike in identified infections as universal testing takes place inside three state prisons.
Figures released Sunday show 1,828 positive tests at Marion Correctional Facility in north-central Ohio, out of about 2,500 total inmates, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
In addition, 109 employees at Marion have tested positive, out of a total of about 350 workers, which includes about 295 guards. One Marion prison guard died earlier this month.
Systemwide, 2,400 inmates have tested positive and six have died, including five at Pickaway Correctional Facility in central Ohio, where 384 inmates have tested positive out of a population of about 2,000. Even the head of the prison guards’ union, Christopher Mabe, is in self-quarantine after his wife, a guard at Lorain Correctional Institution, tested positive.
The spike in prison infections sent the state’s tally of cases on Sunday to more than 11,600, which includes 471 deaths.
Inmate rights groups have called on the Republican governor to release thousands of the state’s 49,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the virus — among them Policy Matters Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and the Juvenile Justice Coalition.
To date, DeWine has released just seven inmates, and requested a review of 198 others, most of them elderly, with sentences running out soon; pregnant inmates; and women with children living with them behind bars.
Members of the Ohio National Guard are helping staff the Pickaway and Marion facilities, and are also assisting at the federal prison in Elkton in eastern Ohio, where six inmates have died.
On April 10, DeWine announced that facility-wide testing would be done at Marion, Pickaway and the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus. At that time, 36 inmates and 58 employees had tested positive, most at Marion and Pickaway.
That decision came two weeks after a Marion employee first tested positive on March 29. Although the prison system assessed every Marion staff member afterward, it was up to inmates to tell medical staff if they were ill, according to an email the prisons director sent to DeWine’s office on March 30.
“Nothing of concern has surfaced,” prisons director Annette Chambers-Smith said of the inmate situation in the March 30 email, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press through a records’ request.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.