UPDATE: Since this article was originally published this afternoon, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has announced that all K-12 schools will be closed for three weeks beginning on Monday. Dewine explained, via Twitter, “At the close of school on Monday is when the school closure starts until April 3. All K-12 schools: Public, private, charter.” Local superintendents made the decision to go ahead and begin the closure on Monday, a day in advance of the requirement set by DeWine. Therefore, Meigs, Southern and Eastern will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Friday, April 3.
MEIGS COUNTY — School districts in Meigs County are remaining open, while closely monitoring the quickly evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation.
While other school districts, colleges and universities in the region are taking steps to limit or cancel classes, Eastern, Meigs and Southern Local Schools remain open, sending information home with each student on Thursday regarding future plans.
Superintendents Steve Ohlinger, Scot Gheen and Tony Deem each explained in the letters that the districts are following the advice of the Ohio Department of Health, Governor Mike DeWine, the Centers for Disease Control, the Meigs County Health Department and other health officials in the continued operations of the district.
“To keep abreast of the most current information, we utilize an open line of communication between our district and the Meigs County Health Department and the Meigs County Emergency Management Agency. With the uncertainty of the current virus and the way it is spreading through the United States, this line of communication is now more important that ever for us to receive the most current information regarding COVID-19,” stated Ohlinger in the letter.
“Governor DeWine recently issued the following statements that impact our school community. K-12 Schools: DeWine is not currently recommending the closure of elementary, middle, and high schools; however, school administrators should begin planning for that possibility. Parents should also begin planning for the potential that they may need to stay home with their children or find alternate childcare solutions,” stated Gheen in the letter.
“Southern Local School District’s number one priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff,” stated Deem in his letter. “Southern Local does not plan on closing but has responded to the situation with increased awareness and is taking extra precaution.”
Currently, the schools are remaining in session, with many events and activities still going on as planned.
“At this time, there are no Eastern Local events that have been canceled. Please remember that this is a very fluid situation and things can change quickly. I recommend that families develop contingency plans for childcare in the event of an extended school closure,” state Ohlinger.
Gheen and Deem explained that their districts have a plan in place should the 14-day closure become necessary.
“Our contingency plan at present and if/when needed, would implement the possible shutdown with the required 14-day quarantine period recommended by the CDC,” stated Gheen. “For now, the general strategy during a possible shutdown, would include various forms of web based, online, or delivered instructional materials. In addition, we will still make every effort to deliver meals to various locations in the county for pick-up, much like our summer meal program, to assist with the nutritional needs of our students. These plans, any changes, and updates of information would be circulated and shared through our website and All Call system.”
“We have a contingency plan that would cover up to 14 days of closure if needed. The first four school days would be a complete close down for all staff and students. The next six days would have contingency lesson that are being provided by your child’s teacher. These are mainly being brought home by students now. … The staff will report after the first four days,” stated Deem of the plan should the district need to close.
Additionally, Southern would work to deliver breakfast and lunch to pick up points in the district with additional information to be communicated if it becomes necessary.
The superintendents each noted that the custodians and kitchen staff in their districts are working to disinfect the school buildings to keep the buildings safe for students and staff.
The districts recommend following the guidelines of the CDC and Meigs County Health Department regarding ways to help prevent the spread of not only COVID-19, but influenza and other illnesses.
- Prevent the spread of germs by covering coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
- Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home if you are sick and avoid sick people.
- If you are having symptoms contact your primary care provider or the emergency department prior to arrival.
The school districts are scheduled to meet with the Meigs County Health Department on Friday.
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Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.