Schools continue to prepare for closures


Staff reports



MIAMI COUNTY — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement Thursday regarding the closure of kindergarten through 12th grade schools for a period of three weeks has left local districts with the task of determining how education will continue for students remotely.

Beginning at the conclusion of the school day on Monday, March 16, all K-12 schools will close to students through Friday, April 3, DeWine said. This order includes all public, community, and private K-12 schools in the state, but does not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria issued a statement Thursday in response to DeWine’s announcement.

“We appreciate the cooperation we’ve received from schools across the state during this time and their focused activity to be ready for this reality,” DeMaria said. “We anticipate continued cooperation as we transition to this period of suspended in-person activity as seamlessly as possible. We are especially grateful to schools that have proactively developed plans to keep learning going even if school buildings aren’t open.”

“We understand there are many questions,” DeMaria continued. “This is uncharted territory that we all are navigating together. We are working to provide answers, but rest assured that we are committed to working with Gov. DeWine, the legislature and other stakeholders to provide as much flexibility and latitude as necessary to accommodate these circumstances.”

Miami County Education Services Center Superintendent David Larson said the center is working closely with districts across the county to help facilitate discussion regarding the public health of schools and their respective plans for students off campus.

Larson said the ESC has met with Miami County Public Health officials twice to receive updates and guidance for staff and students. Larson said the public health status is a “fluid situation” changing day-to-day.

Larson said districts were also discussing how to provide meals for students in need and how to coordinate food for students to prepare at home.

Larson said he’s waiting for more direction from the state on how limiting interaction will impact student learning in the coming weeks.

Additional information for families and guidance for schools will be announced in the coming days and posted at www.ed.gov/coronavirus.

Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said Friday that he received a notice from the Ohio Department of Education, which included the above information, as well as directives on how to move forward, while noting that new information will be released as it becomes available.

“Now that we know schools will be closed, the Ohio Department of Education can begin to provide clarity on answers related to the minimum hours requirement, accountability issues, testing, special education requirements, ensuring students can get meals and many others,” the notice states.

PCS Athletic Director Chip Hare confirmed the district’s athletic department has cancelled all practices, scrimmages, and games for spring sports, for both junior high and high schools, through April 6.

The Covington Exempted Village School District sent students home Friday with a letter to parents in order to provide some answers as to how the upcoming weeks will go.

“The teachers will prepare assignments for the students to complete during this closure,” the letter states. “Each teacher has already prepared the equivalent of five days of work for our students. Additional work will be sent home each Monday that we are out via email or Google Classroom.”

During the closure, no events, activities or practices will be held.

“At this time, we still have many unanswered questions regarding the school year,” Gooding states in the letter. “We are expecting more guidance from the Ohio Department of Education within the next few days. When we received new information, we will share it with you. Our plan is to use the One Call Now system and the email feature on Final Forms.”

The Upper Valley Career Center is currently working to make final plans for the three-week break. UVCC had previously scheduled a three-day spring break around the Easter holiday, April 12, which does not align with the governor’s directive that came on Thursday.

UVCC also had a number of students abroad in Hanover, Germany. Those students are scheduled to begin their journey home tomorrow. A representative from UVCC said the students were not in immediate danger in Germany, but the school has decided to bring the students home as a precautionary measure.

Piqua Catholic School held classes on Friday to give students an opportunity to gather their belongings, and then the school dismissed early to help give their teachers time to prepare lesson plans for their students’ remote learning. The school, along with the preschool, plans to be closed through April 3, with the current plan to resume classes on April 6. All sports, events and extracurricular activities associated with Piqua Catholic School are until further notice. The remainder of the Friday Fish Fries held at the school will be carry-out only.

“For teachers to get the proper materials to students to complete over the next three weeks, we want to take it week by week,” Piqua Catholic School Principal Brad Zimmerman said in statement sent home to families. Piqua Catholic School plans to open the front school office on Mondays to allow parents and guardians to stop by, pick up and/or drop off the materials the teachers have prepared for them. Some teachers may also be utilizing online programs, such as Google Classroom, to deliver materials to students. Zimmerman also instructed parents and guardians to reach out to the school if students do not have the technology necessary at home to complete their work online.

“Students are required to complete this work during the week and submit it by the deadline given by the teacher. Please keep an eye on teachers’ blogs on the Piqua Catholic School app for further information. Please also communicate via app message with your teachers if you have any questions,” Zimmerman said. He said he will continue to update families as information arises.

According to Troy Christian Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Wilber said, prior to DeWine’s announcement Thursday, TCS has a plan in place to provide the option of distance learning for its students.

“We have expanded that to accommodate the longer term impact that this situation could create,” he said. “Our technology department has been working with our teachers to help ensure the delivery of quality content to our students from home. We are able to use our school learning management system in conjunction with the Google Suite to make this happen.”

Wilber added that TCS will use its “school management system,” called FACTS, to communicate with students, families, and staff.

“(FACTS) allows us to do online classes, give tests, grades, and totally community with our families,” Wilber said.

Troy City Schools will also be closed for three weeks beginning Monday, March 16, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Troy will then follow with its regularly scheduled spring break the week of April 6 and, if the coronavirus situation has improved, will resume classes April 13.

The district currently is working on an online education program for students. This program will begin Monday, March 23. It will be Troy City Schools’ goal to get devices to students who do not have them. Next week, the district will have more information regarding alternative plans for students who do not have access to computers or online capabilities.

Troy City Schools will serve breakfast and lunches to any student in need beginning Tuesday, March 17. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays, any student may pick up a grab-and-go pack of food at the main entrance of any of the district’s nine school buildings. This grab-and-go pack will have that day’s lunch and the next day’s breakfast.

The Tipp City Exempted Village School District is holding an emergency board meeting Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education office to assess the situation. The school did not previously respond to a request for comment on its response to the coronavirus beyond stating it is in planning stages.

Staff reports

Aimee Hancock, Melanie Yingst, and Sam Wildow contributed to this story.

Aimee Hancock, Melanie Yingst, and Sam Wildow contributed to this story.