COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a stunning announcement Thursday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all public, community and private schools — grades kindergarten through 12th grade — to close for three weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The schools will close to students at the conclusion of the school day on Monday and the closure will run through Friday, April 3. DeWine called it an “extended spring break” to slow down the transmission of COVID-19. His order did not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.
DeWine’s decision wasn’t surprising to local school officials who talked with The Lima News shortly after the announcement, although some officials were surprised by the length of time.
Like everyone else, local school officials learned of the closings Thursday afternoon.
Lima Schools had been preparing for a possible closure this past week.
“District officials have been in discussions for the past several days as to how to continue learning if this came. We will release additional information regarding this Friday,” said Beth Jokinen, Lima City Schools communications coordinator.
Aaron Rex, Wapakoneta Local Schools superintendent, said at around 2:25 p.m. he and staff watched the governor’s press conference.
“We have 3,000 students grades pre-K through 12th who this will effect,” Rex said.
He said staff talked Wednesday about taking precautions for students in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He sent a letter to parents warning them of the possibility that the schools would temporarily close.
“We had a bit of an idea that there would be closures, but we weren’t anticipating three weeks,” Rex said.
DeWine said that during the extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means and school district leadership may make decisions on whether to use their school buildings. Staff members should continue to report to school as directed by administrators, the governor said.
Jim Kanable, Shawnee Local Schools superintendent, watched the governor’s press conference on the Internet and said it effects 2,400 students in the district.
“Communication with parents is ongoing and immediate,” Kanable said. “We are sending out web notifications of closings.”
The governor acknowledged the risk of death from the virus for a child isn’t very high, but there were concerns about children being potential carriers of the virus.
“We want to thank educators and administrators for the extraordinary efforts they will take to continue offering services during this time of national crisis,” DeWine said.
Over the next 72 hours, the Ohio Department of Education will develop guidance for K-12 schools to ensure the continuity of important student services, including a strategy for providing meals.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.