Coronavirus: Decision to close schools answers one question for Clark, Champaign, creates more

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Springfield High School joined high schools across Ohio in honoring their seniors by turning on their stadium lights at 8:20pm Monday.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Clark and Champaign school superintendents are disappointed their districts must finish the school year with remote learning but are pressing forward in the wake of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision.

Announcements about year-end plans and graduation are forthcoming, some by the end of this week.

“While the district is sad and empathetic for our seniors, students, teachers, parents and community members, we have always said that the safety of our students and staff is our first priority,” said Springfield superintendent Bob Hill.

Clark-Shawnee superintendent Brian Kuhn also emphasized safety in his district’s response.

“We are disheartened to know our students will not see their teachers in person again this year and that end-of-year experiences will look very different, but we know that this closure keeps our students, staff, and community safer during the pandemic,” he said.

Just like the other schools, Greenon superintendent Brad Silvus said the district would have liked to have been able to finish the year with students in the classroom but understands health takes precedence.

“We are committed to continuing to provide education, assistance with food, and critical services to our students and families through the rest of the year,” he said.

In Champaign County, the message was much the same from Triad superintendent Vickie Hoffman and Urbana superintendent Charles Thiel, who said their districts are disappointed but understanding.

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“Triad is of course devastated by the news that we will not have our students and staff back in the buildings this year, but fully understand the need to keep everyone healthy,” Hoffman said.

Thiel echoed that sentiment.

However, since the turn of events was not a surprise, he pointed to the bright side of their being finality after weeks of uncertainty about if – or more likely when – the governor would make a final decision.

“Although we are disappointed in not being able to work directly with our students daily, the announcement had been expected so it just allows us to move forward more confidently,” Thiel said. “We had implemented our distance learning program with a long-term mindset from the start.”

Distance learning will continue at all of the schools the News-Sun contacted while meal plans are still being finalized in some cases both for the rest of the school year and the summer.

“The SCSD Food Services team continues to supply students with a five-day supply of breakfasts and lunches each week,” Hill said. “Summer food plans will be announced in late May.”

At Triad, Hoffman said meals will continue to be served in May with a decision to be made later about June and July.

Urbana will continue its current lunch and breakfast program through the end of the school year, according to Thiel.

“We usually run a similar program during summer, just at fewer community sites,” he said.

RELATED: Coronavirus: All Ohio high school spring sports canceled

At Clark-Shawnee, meal service will also continue through the end of the school year, and a committee of administrators, teachers, parents, and senior students will discuss options for celebrating the Class of 2020.

“What we are able to do will largely depend on the limitations in effect as we move forward,” Kuhn said.

At Springfield, Hill said brainstorming has been going on for weeks and plans to honor and recognize the seniors will be shared later this week or next.

“Our students deserve the very best and it is heartbreaking that tradition may be compromised. However, the SCSD is committed to doing our very best to honor a class so deserving,” he said.

The planning process is already underway at Greenon, too, according to Silvus.

“A committee of parents, students, and staff has started working to make plans to celebrate the Class of 2020 in meaningful ways that will create lasting memories for our seniors and their families,” he said. “As we receive more guidance from the state, we’ll update families as we finalize plans and information for the end of the school year and the summer.”

READ: Coronavirus: Urbana University to close, cease enrollment at end of semester

In Champaign County, Thiel said Urbana is still in the planning process while Triad plans to release its graduation committee’s plans Friday.

“We plan to have tentative graduation dates at the end of June, end of July and also plan for a virtual graduation if those dates cannot happen. If we do have a virtual graduation, we plan to tape all speeches, have time slots for each graduate to walk across the stage and receive their diploma, with their family there and then post for everyone to see,” Hoffman said. “Our true hope is that we can have a face-to-face graduation ceremony.”

DeWine said no decision about the 2020-21 school year has been made, but some type of “blended” learning has been discussed. That would consist of a combination of in-person and remote learning, but districts may decide what works best for them and their flexibility.

Local school officials also have begun preparations for the fall as well as the summer.

“The district is exploring ways to host summer camps and activities virtually,” Springfield’s Hill said. “At the same time, if the Governor lifts the stay-at-home order, we will consider additional options.”

At Urbana, Thiel indicated efforts are being made to modify the summer schedule and implement distance learning for high school students who need to make up credits.

“We will also be preparing plans for implementing appropriate safety procedures for students and staff in hopes that we might return to the buildings in the fall,” he added.

At Triad, they are still planning to open Aug. 19 after buildings are cleaned and prepared.

“We have already started planning on how we can bring everyone back and still ensure they can stay healthy,” Hoffman said.