Valley superintendents stay alert as concern over virus interrupts higher education

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The governor's recommendation that universities shut down face-to-face classes raised eyebrows among K-12 superintendents

MAHONING COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) – COVID-19 just got added to the syllabi at colleges and universities, but it’s not on the schedule yet for other schools.

The governor’s recommendation that universities shut down face-to-face classes raised eyebrows among K-12 superintendents. On Wednesday, they talked about it with the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

“When is the Department of Health going to advise on closing and even how does that communication look?” said Traci Hostetler, superintendent of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

Superintendents are raising the same questions that the community wants answered: who makes the decision? How long could it be?

Superintendents in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties have been listening to health experts and epidemiologists since early February when the coronavirus reached America.

“Our public schools are committed to making decisions in the best interest of the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff,” said assistant superintendent Robert Marino Jr. “We will continue to make decisions based on recommendations of the Health Department, Department of Education and Governor DeWine’s office.”

They are concerned about kids being told to stay home from school, and how that would impact families.

“Some districts at the moment are fully capable to go online if the need arises. Some districts are looking at a blended model where perhaps their elementary students will do paper-pencil. High school, middle school will do electronic. Some districts will make up the time in the summer,” said Hostetler.

An interruption like this would be different than using blizzard bags. A few years ago, the state went from snow days to the number of school hours.

“So if you go below that minimum hour requirement, districts are, as of the moment per Ohio Revised Code, able to have three blizzard bags,” Hostetler said.

That could only be increased by the governor and legislators. K-12 schools are watching the coronavirus outbreak in Ohio and making plans to handle any number of situations.

“Just working together to figure out how to best approach this, to be aware and alert and ready to go without panicking,” Hostetler said.

Superintendents are also concerned about how schools closing would meet the needs of kids with special needs.

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