Schools, restaurants, bars close as Ohio battles coronavirus
At 12:07 p.m. on March 13, the cafeteria at Harrison High School should have been filled with many hungry students during the beginning of second lunch, but it was completely empty.
That Friday was the first day of a three-week period that SLSD will be closed due to an order from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for all K-12 schools to close to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
School closures are among many steps the governor has taken to reduce the spread of the virus in Ohio.
On Thursday, March 12, DeWine announced that all K-12 schools would close for about three weeks.
He said the three-week period began at the end of the school day on Monday, March 16, and will last until Friday, April 3, but SLSD decided to start this closure on March 13.
This closure affects all private, public, and community K-12 schools.
For Southwest Schools, the week of March 16 to 20 will be similar to a week of snow days and features no school work, and March 23-27 is the regularly scheduled spring break.
From March 30 to April 3, school will be closed, but work may be assigned by hard/digital copy for grades K-12.
Schools and facilities will be closed to students during this time, and all activities are canceled.
At a morning meeting with Harrison High School staff March 13, Southwest Superintendent John Hamstra said the past 24 hours had been the craziest he’s experienced during his time in education.
“It is unprecedented,” he said.
He is a little concerned about digital access for all students and said it could be tricky.
Students in grades six to 12 have laptops, and he said school work for kids in kindergarten to fifth grade probably will be a mixture of digital and hard copies.
Hamstra told staff it’s possible this situation extends beyond April 3, and he wants students to be able to get into a routine of learning from home, and the schools will be communicating with parents and families via email/phone messages during this school closure.
The closure has also pushed back the state testing window, which was supposed to start March 23, but will now start Monday, April 6, at the earliest.
Assistant Superintendent Corinne Hayes said state testing is deeply rooted in federal and state legislation and the Ohio Department of Education is working with legislators.
Hamstra said the district also is looking at contingency plans for prom and graduation, the latter of which is scheduled for Thursday, May 28.
Meanwhile, The Ohio High School Athletic Association has postponed all remaining winter tournament contests, including boys basketball regional and state tournaments, and state tournaments for ice hockey, individual wrestling, and girls basketball.
There hasn’t been a timetable established for possibly rescheduling these tournaments.
Harrison Senior Brett McIntosh was headed to the state wrestling state tournament.
Also beginning on Tuesday, March 17, it was ordered that no OHSAA member schools are allowed to practice or participate in scrimmages or contests through Sunday, April 5.
A mandatory no-contact period is in effect for all school-sponsored sports until April 5, and there is also a mandatory shutdown of athletic facilities until then.
Schools are also encouraged to cancel all spring sport out-of-state trips.
Saturday, April 11, is a tentative date for all scrimmages/regular season contests to continue, and Monday, April 6, for practices.
Restaurant closures, no mass gatherings
On March 12, DeWine also announced the prohibition of mass gatherings in the state of Ohio.
Gatherings are defined as anything that brings together 100 or more people in a single space at the same time, such as an arena, auditorium, large conference room, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.
The prohibition includes parades, fairs, and festivals, but not the normal operations of airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls, or other places where 100 or more people may be in transit.
It also does not include typical office environments, factories, and retail/grocery stores where many people might be present, but often aren’t within arm’s length of each other, according to a press release from DeWine.
The order will stay in effect until the state of emergency declared by DeWine is rescinded or modified.
On Sunday, March 15, DeWine announced the closure of restaurants and bars to in-house patrons. Restaurants with take-out and delivery options will be able to continue those services.
The Public library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Although DeWine’s mass gathering directive did not include libraries, the library system has closed all of its locations indefinitely, and library leadership will assess the closure weekly.
The library system has also cancelled all events and classes, and closed all meeting rooms, until April 3.
The library is allowing customers to hold onto their checked out “physical” materials, instead of returning them, and checked out items will have their return dates extended.
E-resources from the library still are available 24/7 online. These include eBooks, eMagazines, downloadable audio books, and more.
Harrison Branch Manager Michelle Elliott said she is disappointed that it had to come to this, but is happy the library is taking these steps to protect staff and the public.
She is hopeful the SLSD elementary school art show at the library, that had just recently opened, can be extended a little bit.
Although the library was closed, as of press time, it still was slated to be used as a polling place for the March 17 primary election.
Long-term care facilities
DeWine has prohibited visitors to long-term care facilities, but there is an exemption for those visiting residents in end-of-life care.
On March 9, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered the relocation of polling locations in all residential senior citizen facilities for the state’s primary election, but polling locations housed in schools were to remain open.
The polling location that was at Shawneespring in Harrison was moved to the Harrison High School Activity Center.
In the City of Harrison, all non-city community group meetings at the Harrison Community Center, such as Girl Scout Troop meetings, have been cancelled through April 3.
As of press time, city-related meetings were scheduled to continue, all city offices remain open, and all scheduled city activities are ongoing.
According to a City of Harrison press release, city functions would cease only if directed by state or federal authorities.
In Whitewater Township, the Board of Trustees decided to suspend all activities at their community center building indefinitely.
Harrison Fire Department Chief Rob Hursong said the department is trying to do what they can to reduce exposures to anything other than EMS runs.
For about 30-45 days, he said they are planning to essentially “close” the fire houses and keep out external visitors, and they are also discontinuing Saturday CPR classes for about a month.
He said personnel most likely won’t be being going to the grocery store while on duty, and will also probably be bringing in their own food and cooking at the stations. It is possible the public could see firefighters wearing masks, glasses and gowns to eliminate exposure as much as possible.
They also are making sure personnel are paying close attention to personal hygiene. HFD doesn’t have the option of shutting down, so they have to keep employees healthy so they can respond to runs.
Hursong recommends those experiencing flu-like symptoms to possibly call their primary care physician first, before calling 911, but, if they call 911to share their symptoms with the dispatcher.
One concern about schools being closed is whether some students might go hungry without access to school meals.
Although all exact processes and procedures remain fluid, there are many different avenues in the works to prevent student hunger.
Beginning the week of March 30, SLSD will provide food to students, but the logistics still are being set.
SLSD Director of Operations Adam Lohbeck said they plan to send out a survey to families through email to see how many will take advantage of this service, and what is the best way to get this food to kids.
Until March 30, local churches and food pantries are partnering with SLSD to help students stay full during this break from school, and SLSD donated to this cause some food that would have otherwise expired.
Church on Fire Executive Director Lisa Daniel said many of the feeding initiatives are ones that are already taking place, but may be ramped up a little bit for the kids that rely on breakfast and lunch from school every day.
She said it’s great that many organizations are willing to gather, come up with a plan, and share resources.
Even if the school closure goes beyond April 3, Daniel said they will figure out a way to help feed these kids.
Below is a list of resources available to local families. Students in urgent need of food can text 513-327-8539. Families can get reminders of food truck stops and farmers markets by texting “food” to 513-268-0756.
•LifeSpring Community Christian Church, Mondays, 4 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., by appointment, 513-367-7746.
•Miami Whitewater United Methodist Church, Mondays and Fridays, 1 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., call 513-367-7746 for appointment.
•Church on Fire mobile food pantry with hot meals and pantry bags, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at multiple locations: noon at Branch Hill, 12:45 p.m. at Haven Park West, 1:30 p.m. at Westland Development, 2:15 p.m. at Rolling Acres, 4:30 p.m. at Legacy Church, 5:15 p.m. at Grandview Flooring Parking Lot, and 6:10 p.m. at Church on Fire.
•Whitewater Crossing, Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Power packs are available during pantry hours. Mobile food pantry on Sundays, call 513-738-7500 for locations and times.
•Church on Fire Farmer’s Market, Wednesdays, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. No registration necessary.
•Legacy Christian Church, Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m., by appointment, 513-367-4316.
•Christ’s Loving Hands, available by appointment, call 513-367-7746.
•Pathways to Home Give and Take Pantry, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Power packs/food bags
•Legacy Christian Church will provide a meal or sandwich for families from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Delivery or pickup. 513-367-4316.
•Whitewater Crossing will have food bags for students on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
•LifeSpring Church will have power pack pick ups for Harrison Elementary School students from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays.
•Pathways to Home meal packs are provided by appointment. Call 513-367-1441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
•Financial assistance is available through Christ’s Loving Hands by application. Families can call 513-367-7746 to apply, or do so online at christslovinghands.org.