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Middletown officially shuts down sports, other activities for start of school year

Officials from Middletown Schools cited local health department recommendations Thursday in their decision to be the first school district in the region to cancel all fall sports indefinitely due to recent spikes in coronavirus infections. The school system is the first in the region to cancel all extra-curricular activities. (File Photo\Journal-News)
Officials from Middletown Schools cited local health department recommendations Thursday in their decision to be the first school district in the region to cancel all fall sports indefinitely due to recent spikes in coronavirus infections. The school system is the first in the region to cancel all extra-curricular activities. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Fears over the coronavirus are shutting down all fall sports and after-school activities in Middletown Schools before they even officially began.

The 6,300-student district, which is a member of the Greater Miami Conference, announced Thursday morning that all boys and girls fall sports teams in all grades will cease practices and other activities.

Marching band is also indefinitely suspended but choir and orchestra and other student clubs can continue to practice, and interact online and learn remotely from their instructors while students are at home when school opens with only remote learning on Aug. 17.

Ohio High School Athletic Association official fall sports practices are to begin statewide Saturday.

School officials cited recent reports from area health officials of rising numbers of coronavirus cases occurring in Middletown and Hamilton as well as across Butler County.

Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr., whose district was already the first in the region to announce all students would start the school year by learning remotely from home, said the extraordinary suspension of sports and marching band is necessary now to have a better chance of returning to normalcy later.

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“By suspending fall extracurricular activities, we are giving our students the best opportunity to get back to the classroom,” said Styles.

“If our families and friends want schools to open in the fall, we need to get serious and we need to mitigate the community spread. We need to social distance. We need to mask up,” he said.

Styles was joined in his announcement statement by Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips, who said the safety of school children is “paramount.”

“In this ever changing, complicated, emotional season we have been placed in, we cannot lose focus on what is most important. The focus should be on the safety of our children, educators, staff, and all the families involved as we move forward with the main objective of educating our youth,” said Phillips.

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Middletown Schools officials said they are “in regular communication with the City of Middletown Health Commissioner as well as the Butler County Health Commissioner and the City of Hamilton Health Commissioner.”

“All three health departments are communicating the rising positive cases and community spread are cause for serious concern. If Middletown Schools do not take exceptional safety measures now, then the district jeopardizes the chances of returning to school in fall 2020,” stated school officials.

City school officials said “in the State of Ohio, some school districts and local schools, including Middletown Schools have confirmed positive cases among students and staff.

Among those students impacted are more than 550 athletes at Middletown High School and Middletown Middle School, which share a campus, and more than 100 members of the high school’s marching band.

“While the fall extracurricular suspension will disappoint many people, Middletown Schools know it is the right decision to flatten the curve and keep the district on track to bring students back to the classroom.”

Phillips said “we must remain vigilant and flexible and if ever there was a time that the old adage is paramount ‘it takes an entire village,’ it is now.”