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Board of Health passes order to suspend in-person learning at schools

TPS prepares for virtual learning. The district has 22,000 chrome books on hand for students.
TPS prepares for virtual learning. The district has 22,000 chrome books on hand for students.(WTVG)
Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 9:00 AM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Lucas County Board of Health took extreme measures Wednesday morning in its battle against the spread of COVID-19 in the community, closing schools to in-person learning and all extra-curricular activities.

The new order goes into effect at 4 p.m. on December 4 and remains in place until January 11. Depending upon the school district, it affects around 17 days of learning for students.

The order stipulates students in grades K-6 are permitted to continue in-person learning, but students in grades 7-12 are ordered to either continue with online learning or begin.

The Board encouraged all school districts to move to remote learning as soon as possible, even earlier than the scheduled start of the order.

“If I could shut down more things, I would,” board president Dr. Johnathon Ross said during Wednesday’s virtual special meeting. “We’re on fire.”

Ross also addressed the issue of closing schools while other outlets remain open, such as bars and restaurants.

“We’re taking care of what we can take care of as a Board of Health,” Ross said. “Anything else is up to the Governor (Mike DeWine).”

The order also requires all sports and extra-curricular activities to pause until January 11, including competitions, contests, and practices. While Ross said they haven’t seen evidence of sports being large contributors to the spread of the virus, he said it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski said they’ve seen athletic teams contribute to the spread, though.

“We’ve had issues. We’ve had to quarantine entire teams,” he said.

The Board voted nearly unanimously in favor of the order, with only Dr. Barbara Sarantou voting against it.

Before the meeting took place, Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz spoke about the impending vote, acknowledging the controversy of the decision and how it will upset many people in Lucas County. And while he knows many people will have passionate opinions about the order – his own family included – that it serves to adjust how some people are reacting to and thinking of the virus.

“I can tell you, I am a dad and that both of my children play high school sports. They are both going to be affected by this and that’s just the world we are living in,” he said. “I can understand that people are going to be passionate about it. I’m sure my kids will be passionate about it when they find out about this, but I think more than anything else, this is a signal the Health Department is sending about how serious this is. Maybe more than any spread as it may be prevented from these restrictions. Hopefully at the very least, it communicates the seriousness of the situation. My hope is that that can begin to affect the behavior of citizens in the way that it needs to.”

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