By LINDA WOODLAND
They thought they were ahead of the game, so to speak.
And being proactive.
Following a morning meeting Thursday, superintendents throughout Seneca County had plans in place to issue a joint statement about contingency plans for addressing the coronavirus pandemic now taking hold on Ohio.
Then Gov. Mike DeWine announced all Ohio schools would begin a three-week spring break at the end of the school day this coming Monday and everything changed.
“We thought we were ahead of the curve. And then his announcement kind of changed things for everybody,” Fostoria City Schools Superintendent Andrew Sprang said.
“We had this great press release ready to go that everybody was signed on. We had ready copies to send home with every kid tomorrow in case they didn’t see our social media So we were trying to be proactive, and now they’re just going to be scratch paper.”
But, Sprang said, there’s still a lot of variables out there needing to be addressed and he will be working on those with other Seneca County superintendents to develop a plan beginning with meetings this morning.
“But it’s changing every hour,” he said, noting how fluid everything has become in response to the swift-moving pandemic.
“There was an agreement reached (Thursday) morning with us that any inside events were postponed until further notice. We’re just not going to be able to do it right now,” he said. “And, you know, it makes total sense. It’s unfortunate. But hopefully these precautionary measures will help this not become as big of an issue as it has become in other parts of the world. And we can get back to business as normal.”
But for right now, it’s the safest course of action, he said.
“And I think that’s what we really need to keep at the forefront is that this is about safety and it’s serious.”
Sprang said sporting events will definitely be impacted during the school break.
“I think it’s very difficult to say that our student athletes should be out competing when we’re not having school. So I believe that all events will be canceled during this time as well.”
Variables to work through
Sprang said he thinks everybody’s kind of in a state of shock right now.
“It’s like you could start planning for it, but then when the hammer finally does fall, it kind of takes you back a little bit,” he said, adding there are still many questions to be addressed such as work, child care and meals, to name a few. “There’s a lot for us still to work through. And I think that plays into why we have the next few days to do that.”
The three-week mandate begins at the end of the school day Monday,
“There’s a lot of confusion out there on that. But you know, watching the governor’s press conference, he said repeatedly, Monday at the close of the day,” Sprang said.
“And that’s part of my level of frustration because I guess we had an idea this could be coming but it really wasn’t communicated to us in advance and it wasn’t super clear. And I know everybody’s under a lot right now. So not being overly critical but there’s just so many questions that still have to be answered.”
Sprang said he respects the challenge many working parents are now facing with finding child care during the portion of the day children would have been in school.
“I think this is going to affect the parents pretty drastically who weren’t seeing this coming. We don’t have anything that we can offer and it is going to kind of fall on the individual families. I think that honestly played into the governor’s decision to keep schools open through Monday, is to give people a little bit more time — four and a half days to make a decision on what you’re doing with your children. And I think a lot can be accomplished in that time.”
And then there is the meal situation. Approximately 68% of Fostoria’s student population qualifies for free and reduced meals. For many of these students, this covers two meals a day.
“The meals are very concerning to me. And I feel that we will be able to do something to assist with meals. We’re not going to be able to let people come in and eat meals. But I think that we’re going to be able to execute a plan where people could possibly come out and pick up some meals. I don’t have that finalized, but that is one area where I feel very strongly that we’re going to have a glimmer of opportunity to really rally around some things and be supportive in that nature.”
Sprang said it might be a situation where, families come out and get multiple days worth of meals for their students.
“But I feel that is probably one of our tasks to accomplish.”
The end of the day
While there are lessons we can all learn as the community transitions through this pandemic, there is one constant to keep in mind.
“At the end of the day, this could very easily get very bad,” Sprang cautioned.
“If the statistics are true that 40% of the population in Ohio could get this, the goal, and the hope, and the prayer is that the people that you know, who you hold dear, make it through this, and that’s the very real analysis right now.”