By Jeff Harrison
Noble Local School District
Noble Local Superintendent Dan Leffingwell called it “uncharted territory”.
With the shutdown of all schools in Ohio for three weeks ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the flurry of activity in the halls…the sound of children interacting…and even the crack of the bats have been silenced.
Currently, classes have been canceled both at the high school and college levels in the state from March 16 through April 3.
“Obviously, Noble Local and schools across the state are dealing with things that we have zero experience in,” said Leffingwell. “We’re dealing with unprecedented times…uncharted territory. We’re really just trying to encourage people to be patient and know that new information comes out minute by minute, so we’re going to do our best to communicate up to date information as soon as it’s available.”
Leffingwell acknowledges that what lies ahead is still unknown and everyone is simply in a wait-and-see mode.
“As many people are aware by now, the governor has ordered a three-week closure, but there are still so many unanswered questions,” he pointed out. “Will it be limited to three weeks? Will it be longer than that? That’s all day-to-day right now.
“We’re waiting daily to find what provisions the governor is going to provide,” he continued. “Are days missed doing to be waived? Are we expected to make up hours? There are hundreds of questions that we’re waiting to hear the answers.”
The NLSD chief says that, for now, the district will treat the shutdown in a similar fashion to “calamity” days incurred in past years.
“We’re really looking at this first 10 days much like we would a bad winter weather season,” said Leffingwell. “Ironically, in the previous six years here, we have averaged 16 to 18 absences per winter due to poor weather and with this three-week shutdown added to the three days we’ve used so far, that still only puts us at 18.
“We might not understand virus protection,” he added, “but we do understand how to handle days off due to calamity and this one just happens to involve the virus.”
Some measures were put in place immediately while other plans are being formulated.
“When students left the building yesterday (Thursday),” he said, “they were prepared with three days of “blizzard bags” or instruction as is consistent with our make-up plan, and we’re going to follow that plan during the first 10 days of this shutdown.
“Beyond that, we will try to have some other things in place to continue to support instruction,” he added.
Among other plans being discussed are finding ways to help families who utilize the school’s food service regularly.
“We’ll be working with local groups and agencies as well as our local food service company to determine how we can provide meals for those families that are really dependent upon their child having breakfast and lunch at school,” said Leffingwell.
Of course, a district-wide shutdown not only affects the classroom, but all school-related extracurricular activities.
“Right now, all campus activities and practices are closed until further notice,” said Leffingwell. “I do expect the OHSAA to release some recommendations no later than Monday regarding spring sports and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Activities affected in the first two days includes practice for spring sports (baseball, softball and track); the Shenandoah Elementary/Middle School Father-Daughter Dance and the Shenandoah High School FFA Square Dance. State-wide it resulted in the “postponement” of the OHSAA boys’ basketball regionals and state tournaments for girls’ basketball, wrestling and hockey.
Upcoming NLSD events currently postponed are the Zep Players production of “Caught in the Web”, the winter sports awards banquets and the SHS Alumni Basketball Tournament, with the entire spring sports schedule also in “limbo.”.
The NLSD has been, and will continue to do its best to sanitize areas within the district top to bottom.
“Weeks ago, our staff started working diligently to sanitize what I would refer to as high-touch areas — doorknobs, bus seats, keyboards — anything that gets a lot of use,” said Leffingwell. “They’ve been amazing from custodians to bus drivers, teachers, secretaries all doing their part and that work will continue over this three-week period of time.”
While acknowledging the confusion and disappointment associated with the situation, Leffingwell wants all local residents to be realistic and understanding.
“I hope people will embrace the fact that not only is this an unprecedented event,” he said, “but that the people who are making these drastic recommendations have a pretty good idea of what’s needed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. I think we have to trust in them because certainly in our lifetime, we haven’t experienced anything like this so we have to lean on the experts
“I have been very impressed with our governor, his ability to lead and collaborate with the Ohio Department of Health, the World Health Organization and any other group he’s working with,” Leffingwell continued, “because these decisions to make these drastic moves are not easy.
“A lot of people want to laugh it off or they want to say ‘this is ridiculous,’ but the fact is that none of us know,” he added.
(Be sure to follow the NLDS on Twitter (@NobleLocal_SD) or Facebook (Noble Local Schools) for regular updates)