Schools In Northeast Ohio Preparing For Coronavirus

A Cleveland Metropolitan School District bus outside Playhouse Square
CMSD said it will work with families to refund the cost of out-of-state field trips that have been canceled until further notice. [Annie Wu / ideastream]

All out-of-state field trips have been canceled for Cleveland public school students. In a message to families on Monday, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said the new policy was a preventative measure in light of the three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cuyahoga County.

“While we have been given no indication that any CMSD staff, student or family are connected in any way to the three cases,” the message stated, “we are taking a number of proactive measures to minimize risk to students, employees, and families relating to the spread of COVID-19.”

In-state field trips, especially those in close quarters or involving more than 1000 people “will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” the email said.

CMSD has set up an online resource page for students and families to get the latest information and hygiene guidelines. The district said it is closely monitoring updates and seeking guidance from local and state health officials as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) created a FAQ web page based on guidance from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to help answer school districts’ questions and help create local action plans that may include school closures.

ODE told school administrators that when it comes to coronavirus and COVID-19, districts should “make all decisions in the best interest of the health and safety of students and the community.”

Mark Williamson, spokesman for Akron Public Schools, said the district is taking a measured approach mostly based on providing good information to students and families, but he added the administration is having regular meetings to discuss what to do if the district is forced to close schools.

“How do we keep the kids engaged if they're quarantined?” said Williamson. “Can we digitally get their lessons to them? And if so, how will we do that?”

For now, the Akron schools' main focus is to keep students and families informed, he said.

“We do have posters in the schools and we have things online and we've emailed families information that they can use,” Williamson said. “Just remind them of good common-sense hygiene that they should be practicing pretty much all the time, anyway.”

The Akron Public School district has a large immigrant population that includes many students from Southeast Asia, Williamson said, so the district is working to translate coronavirus-related information for those families.

The Cleveland Council of Independent Schools, a consortium of private schools in Northeast Ohio, including Hathaway Brown, Hawken and Laurel, told ideastream via email that “some schools have canceled upcoming student exchange trips.”

“Our boarding schools with children from China or other high risk geographies, have communicated to parents that their children should not travel home for spring break and will keep the boarding houses open for that time,” according to the email. CCIS also said member schools are prepared for potential closures and will educate its students according to each school’s mission.

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