The state’s latest mandate ordering schools to stay closed for three more weeks than first required has local school leaders eyeing additional changes to those already forced by the coronavirus.
The remaining school year is now in flux, said local school officials, after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine extended state orders to keep all public and private schools closed until May 1 rather than the previous April 6 resumption date.
When DeWine was asked earlier this week if he has considered pushing the school year back, the governor said it would be more likely that the school year would finish remotely.
Middletown Schools officials said the extraordinary anti-virus measures create many challenges but none that can’t be overcome.
“We are experiencing a health crisis that none of us has experienced in our lifetime,” read a statement released by school officials shortly after DeWine’s announcement.
“Luckily, the Middletown community is strong and united. Together, we will navigate through this challenging situation,” officials said.
Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools, said his district will continue the remote learning efforts started last month.
“Lakota Schools is prepared to continue remote learning not only through May 1, but through the end of the school year, should Governor DeWine make that decision,” said Miller.
Public safety is paramount, said Miller, followed closely by maintaining the nutritional needs of students who relied on free and reduced cost school breakfasts and lunches.
“Our meal distribution for children will also continue on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the closure,” he said. “While it certainly isn’t our preferred method of teaching, this is in the best interest of the health of our community and our state.”
Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota, which is the ninth largest district in Ohio, said previously scheduled events are being reviewed for possible postponement.
Those master planning calendars at area schools are the center of discussions for other Butler and Warren county school districts.
“Our plan for remote learning anticipated that schools may be closed longer than what was originally announced,” said Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools. “During this next phase of our remote learning plan, our administrators, educators and staff will continue to provide essential services to our students and families - including food distribution, remote learning, and mental wellness support.”
The adjacent Kings Schools has seen its communities rally as school parents and other residents help the schools through volunteering for meal distribution, which is feeding those from families poor enough to be eligible for free and reduced cost school meals.
The district is on its previously scheduled spring break this week, but Kings officials said they weren’t surprised.
“We were sort of anticipating this extension to happen,” said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for district. “Most of our big events were already canceled due to the unknown and extensive planning that would have to take place to pull them off. We are still up in the air about graduation. We are coming up with some great ideas though.”
Talawanda School officials echoed the outpouring of sympathy, but added the historic changes have prompted innovation.
“This has been a tough time for everyone,” said Schools Spokeswoman Holli Morrish. “But it has also been a chance to try and learn new things. And we have all been overwhelmed by the generosity of our staff and community members who have donated resources and time to make sure that children in need in our community are supported and fed.”
Carson said Mason school families should remain optimistic.
“Many of our teachers are also parents so they understand what our families are going through. Most importantly, for families who may be feeling stressed or scared about all of a sudden having to juggle so many things, we want folks to know that their schools are here for them and we will get through this – together,” she said.
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